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Playoff pain repeats for Hend

Scott Hend
Scott Hend visits the 18th fairway bunker for the fourth time in a marathon final day.

History repeated itself today, much to the dismay of Australian Scott Hend.

The big Queenslander let victory slip through his fingers for a second year in succession at the European Masters in Switzerland – again in a playoff.

Hend, who had led for three days, was bumped off the Swiss summit by Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick who won with a par on the third extra hole on the Crans-sur-Sierre course.

Hend, as he had 12 months ago, went into the final round leading only to again see Fitzpatrick, as Alexander Noren last year, fitted with the traditional red winner’s jacket.

Hend, and his caddie wife Leanne, travelled down the mountain and made their way to Geneva Airport rueing several opportunities, but none more so than his 1.5m birdie attempt at the second extra hole that failed to even hit the hole.

Earlier, Hend had returned to the course at 8am local time to complete five holes of his delayed third round and he did so brilliantly, reaching the green at the par-five 14th where he made eagle.

The world No.98 then gave back a shot at the 15th before ending with three pars and a round of 71 to lead by three. Fitzpatrick’s 70 had left him four behind Hend.

Hend made an indifferent start with back-to-back bogeys at the third and fourth holes while Fitzpatrick loomed with three birdies in succession from the sixth and then a fourth at the 10th.

Hend finally found forward gear with birdies at the fifth, seventh and ninth holes, the former after a superb drawn approach from the trees after a wayward drive.

Fitzpatrick went two shots clear thanks with a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th before Hend answered with a 15th hole birdie and then found himself level with Fitzpatrick, 21 years his junior, when the Brit bogeyed the 71st hole.

Both players narrowly missed birdie putts to end regulation play with Hend carding a three-under 68 and Fitzpatrick producing an equal day’s best 64 to leave the duo tied at 14 under.

After doing the same to end his his third round and again in the fourth, Hend found the fairway bunker to the right of the 18th as both men parred the first extra hole.

Hend found the 18th fairway on the second extra hole and hit a brilliant second shot to inside 2m after Fitzpatrick was left and short.

The 23-year-old Englishman showed his disgust and slapped his right leg in missing his birdie try, but Hend let him off the hook in following suit.

The Aussie then committed another error finding the same 18th fairway bunker – for the fourth time in five attempts at the hole throughout the day – but this time was left with no shot other than to fly the green and send his ball up against the grandstand where he was afforded a “free” drop.

Fitzpatrick’s second shot was well left of the flag, but close enough to put pressure on Hend’s third which he rolled well past the flag, just inches short of the greenside water hazard.

An indifferent par putt still left Hend outside Fitzgerald’s par attempt. Both men cleaned up, leaving Fitzgerald a fourth European Tour title.

“I had the opportunity and I didn’t take it,” Hend said.

“It’s just what happens when you don’t take your opportunities. I hit a good bunker shot on the 18th in regulation play to get into the playoff.

“I hit that shot when I came back to finish my third round this morning.

“It was just insane out of the bunker. I would love to putt the same way I had (been) in the playoff but it didn’t happen.

“I came back this morning to play the 14th hole of my third round and I made a nice eagle there – it was a good start to the day.

“I didn’t play as nicely in the afternoon but it is what it is. Fitzpatrick played great to win. He’s a good champion.”

Fitzpatrick had finished in the top 10 at this event the past two years and this was the second time he had been involved in a final-day shootout after losing to countryman Danny Willett by a shot in 2015.

“I’m delighted,” he said. “It’s one that I’ve always wanted to win. I love playing this golf course, from the first year I came as an invite in 2014, it’s one that has really stood out on my schedule and I always want to come back and play.

“I was saying to (caddie) Jamie, ‘I think 17 might have cost us today’, but it’s just one of those things. It’s never nice to see but we kept our nerve and just played really smart all week.

“I remember being here in 2015 when Dan won and his parents were there to see him win, so it’s nice to have mine here, too. It’s the third win they’ve seen me achieve, so it’s pretty special.”

Hend’s reward was a 300,000 Euro cheque that lifted him to 31st on the Race of Dubai and the assurance of contesting the season-ending DP World Tour Championship for a second year running. He should also jump back inside to around 80th in the world rankings.

Of the other Aussies, Marcus Fraser had a flat closing 74 to fall to T20 at six under and fellow Victorian Todd Sinnott did likewise to fall to T44.

West Australian Brett Rumford (70) and New South Welshman Sam Brazel (71) shared 54th at level par, while WA’s Jason Scrivener (72) finished four over and Victorian Nathan Holman (71) at five over.

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