Valimaki clinches Oman Open after dramatic finish

MUSCAT: Sami Valimaki got his hands on European Tour silverware for the first time with a dramatic play-off triumph over Brandon Stone on a thrilling final day at the third staging of the Oman Open at Al Mouj Golf, Muscat. Finland’s Valimaki, who finished tied eighth at Qualifying School last year to gain his European Tour card, drained a mammoth putt at the last to get to a tournament total of 13 under par and force a play-off with the South African before an extra three trips back down the 18th saw him crowned champion. The duo couldn’t be separated after the first two extra holes before Stone found trouble with his second shot on the third hole which led to a bogey while Valimaki’s par was enough to seal a maiden victory.

“I feel awesome!” said the 21-year-old. “I knew after the ninth hole that I had dropped down the leaderboard after my double bogey. I realised that I needed to card two birdies and I did that on the 16th and the 18th to make the play-off. “I thought I was going to miss the putt on the last in regulation but thank God it went in the hole and gave me the chance to win the tournament. It’s great that more Finnish golfers are doing well in the sport and golf is getting more popular in Finland’’. Stone, who was searching for a fourth European Tour title, had sunk a monster putt of his own to get to 13 under par and set the clubhouse target before Valimaki forced the play-off in the Sultanate.

“Obviously I’m a little disappointed but I’m really proud with how I played over the last four days,” he said. “My golf is back to where it needs to be. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough this week but I’m still happy at how I’ve been playing. Al Mouj Golf is one of the top five courses I’ve ever played on. Greg Norman has done an incredible job with the design and the ground staff have done an amazing job in getting the course in the condition that it is. This is the first tournament on put on my calendar every season’’. Adrien Saddier narrowly missed out on getting into the play-off by just one shot. The Frenchman, who also earned his European Tour playing privileges with a tied eighth finish at Qualifying School last year, dropped two shots over the first two holes before bouncing back with six birdies over the next 14 holes.

But he fell just short of the play-off after making a bogey at the 17th to drop him down to 12 under par. “It was tough out there today and starting bogey bogey didn’t help,” said the 27-year-old. “The wind was really blowing really hard towards the end of the day. I made some nice birdies but unfortunately fell just one short’’. Mikko Korhonen and Guido Migliozzi finished a shot further back as they shared fourth while George Coetzee, Jordan Smith, Rasmus Hojgaard and Alejandro Canizares finished in tied sixth in Muscat.