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Tommy Fleetwood wins the Johnnie Walker Championship

Updated: Sunday, 25 Aug 2013 18:55 | Comments

Tommy Fleetwood tees off on the seventh hole
Tommy Fleetwood tees off on the seventh hole

England's Tommy Fleetwood today won his maiden European Tour title on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher and Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Gallacher looked out of contention when he ran up a triple-bogey seven on the 11th in a roller-coaster final round, but bounced back with birdies at the 14th and 16th and then holed from 15ft for an eagle on the last to complete a 67.

That set the clubhouse target at 18 under par and Fleetwood matched it thanks to an eagle of his own on the 16th and birdie on the last, with playing partner Gonzalez making birdies on the 16th and 18th after almost holing his bunker shot on the last for a winning eagle.

On the Centenary Course which will host next year's Ryder Cup, the players returned to the par-five 18th for the play-off and Gallacher was eliminated when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, missing a birdie putt from seven feet.

Gonzalez had putted down to five feet from just off the back of the green and when he also missed, Fleetwood was left to hole from four feet for a winning birdie and the first prize of £233,330.

Of the Irish involved; Shane Lowry fared best on 14 under after a 69. Michael Hoey finished 10 under, Peter Lawrie and Simon Thornton on four under, while Paul McGinley and Gareth Maybin were three under.

"It's unbelievable. I have been up there a lot and not even had a top-five finish and all of a sudden you come away with a win" - Tommy Fleetwood

"The other two guys were a little unlucky with their putts and before you know it you have a four footer for the win," said Fleetwood, who carded a closing 70.

"God knows how I made contact. It all seemed to unravel really quickly."

Fleetwood was the youngest winner of the Challenge Tour in 2011 but only kept his card at the end of his rookie season on the European Tour thanks to a first top-10 finish of the year in the final event in South Africa.

The 22-year-old from Southport, who stayed with his parents in a house behind the 12th green this week, added: "It's unbelievable. I have been up there a lot and not even had a top-five finish and all of a sudden you come away with a win.

"It just seemed to come a bit easier this week. I was nervous as hell on the first green but after that I was pretty calm. It was so tight, almost claustrophobic on the leaderboard; if you dropped a shot you went down 10 places.

"My bogey on 15 dropped me out of the lead but it was a good one because I had duffed my way down the hole. On the 16th tee I said let's finish like I did on Friday with three birdies and knowing what I had to do on the 18th really helped.

"I'd carved two drives into the trees earlier in the week and had it in my mind that I might want to hit an iron, but I knew I needed birdie and hit two great shots, driver and five-iron, onto the green."

The Ryder Cup points race starts next week in Wales and Fleetwood added: "I wish it started a week earlier but the Ryder Cup is a long way off. It's a lifetime goal but whether that's next year or down the line doesn't matter as long as I can achieve it."

Fleetwood and Gonzalez began the day tied for the lead on 16 under but Gonzalez got off to the worst possible start when he lost a ball with a wild approach to the first and ran up a double-bogey six.

A birdie on the par-five second steadied the ship, but with Fleetwood also making birdie there, the Englishman had a two-shot cushion at the top of a densely-packed leaderboard.

"I was just happy to be playing to be honest" - Stephen Gallacher

Gallacher, whose participation had been in doubt all week due to a back injury suffered washing his car on Monday, had dropped a shot on the first but holed from long range for an eagle on the second and then birdied the fifth, eighth and ninth to move into the lead on 17 under.

His hopes of a second victory of the season - he won the Dubai Desert Classic in February - looked to be over when his approach to the 11th flew over the green and into some bushes, from where he took a penalty drop and duffed a pitch on his way to a seven.

But birdies on the 14th and 16th got him back into the frame before he delighted the large home crowds with a superb eagle on the last to overhaul clubhouse leaders Scott Henry - who had also eagled the 18th - and Bernd Wiesberger.

"I would have taken a play-off on Monday," Gallacher said.

"I was just happy to be playing to be honest. I actually hit the ball really really well. It was only the short irons I was struggling with, I could not really get into my posture.

"On the 18th I knew I needed to hole it (his eagle putt) to have a chance. It was a great putt, just a shame I could not do it again."

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