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Finishing second is a bitter pill for Van Rooyen

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Tyrrell Hatton clinched victory with a birdie after a forth trip down 18.

SA's Erik van Rooyen. Picture credit: Turkish Airlines Open

On a day of almost unprecedented high drama on the European Tour, South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen sensationally eagled the par-5 closing hole at the Royal Maxx Montgomerie course with a 20-foot putt from the fringe of the green yesterday to join a six-man play-off for the title in the $7million Turkish Airlines Open.

After a closing 7-under-par 65 he joined England’s Tyrrell Hatton, American Kurt Kitayama, Austria’s Matthias Schwab, and French pair Benjamin Herbert and Victor Perez on 20-under-par 268 for the four rounds of regulation play. Shortly afterwards, though, in the play-off – also on the 18th hole – Van Rooyen hooked his drive into the bushes left of the fairway on his way to a bogey six and his hopes were done and dusted.

The Frenchmen were the next players to be eliminated followed by Kitayama. Eventually, with the floodlights on in the evening gloom, Hatton clinched victory with a birdie after a fourth trip down 18 with Schwab, collecting the $2m first prize.

“I’m not mad at myself,” Van Rooyen said. “It was just a poor tee-shot, and came at the worst possible time. I was feeling fine; feeling confident and I hit the ball and looked up and it was going left. I made a great eagle on 18 to get myself in that play-off and I’ll rather remember today for that. 
“It was a really good week and I’ll take a lot of positives to Sun City and this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge. All sportsmen we play to win, so finishing second is a bitter pill, but I’ve had my fair share of those. You have to look at the bigger picture. 
“I’ll pick up some Race to Dubai and world golf ranking points this week, and that counts.”
Van Rooyen played some remarkable golf in Turkey, none more so than in the last six holes of round three and the first seven holes of round four.
In that stretch of 13 holes he made 10 birdies, two pars and a solitary bogey. Amazing. 
Things calmed down on the back nine yesterday though. After picking up a shot at the par-4 10th, he found the trees at the par-5 11th which led to a bogey. He failed to birdie the par-5 13th, where the players looked to pick up a shot, as his second ran through the green and he was unable to get up and down for four. 
Van Rooyen then rolled in a 15-footer for a birdie two at the 14th. At the 337-yard par-4 15th he took out the “big stick” in order to try and drive the green. He hit a beauty which ran just through the putting surface, and a birdie looked imminent.
But he hit a poor chip and had to settle for par. Birdie putts refused to drop both at 16 and 17 and at 18-under his hopes looked dashed. But that eagle putt moved him from a share of sixth to tied second, increasing his prize money from $170 000 to $430 000 (about R6m). That’s a big jump of
$260 000, which equates to around R3.5m. So let’s call it Van Rooyen’s “R3.5m 20-footer!”
Van Rooyen’s rounds improved each day, from 70 to 67 to 66 and 65, while compatriot Zander Lombard also had a good tournament, closing with a 68 for 274 and a tie for 17th