Thomas Pieters of Belgium held steady to fight off the challenge of Sweden’s Pelle Edberg and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England to claim his maiden European Tour title at the D+D REAL Czech Masters.
Pieters began Round 4 at the Albatross Golf Resort in Prague one shot ahead of the pack. He maintained his advantage with a birdie on the first, but a double bogey at the short third opened the door for Edberg, who took advantage and moved into the lead. Pieters wasn’t done though and fought back with birdies at the 9th and 10th.
Through the 10th, Edberg and Pieters were tied but it was the Belgian who proved to be the strongest on the run for home. Edberg bogeyed the 11th and, when Pieters made a gain at the 13th, the 23-year-old moved two clear. The youngster kept his composure down the stretch. A closing birdie confirmed his first win on the European Tour. He took the title by three from Edberg with another youngster, Matthew Fitzpatrick, still just 20, alone in third.
“I tried to stay patient today and I think I did a really good job," Pieters said. "I was very nervous coming down the stretch to be honest. That just goes away the more you are in contention, and I’m looking forward to doing it again."
Four things we learned at the D+D REAL Czech Masters:
1. Thomas Pieters showed formidable resolve this week in Prague. He had to hold off a chasing pack eager to bring him down and he also had to bounce back from a mistake on Saturday that could have cost him dearly. After driving into the rough on the 11th hole in Round 3, he blasted his second out of the thick grass. It was after that he found his actual ball a few yards away. He had played the wrong one. Others might have buckled after making such an error, but Pieters dug deep, made three birdies on the run in, carded a 65 and took the lead.
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick is another young player chasing a first European Tour victory. He was second in the Omega European Masters and now has a third place in this event on his CV. The 2013 U.S. Amateur champion came out of the blocks like a sprinter on Day 4 in Prague. He made four straight birdies and threatened the leaders, but his progress inevitably slowed and he had to make do with third place. He has earned more than €600,000 this season and looks likely to make it to the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
3. In finishing second, Pelle Edberg has secured his playing rights for 2016. The Swede will breathe a sigh of relief to see his season’s earnings go above €300,000. It means he won’t need to make another trip to the dreaded Q-school. He came through that route to gain his card for 2015. It was the 14th time the 36-year-old had gone through the ordeal.
4. Renato Paratore of Italy scored his first top-10 finish on the European Tour and is definitely one to watch for the future. The 18-year-old was tied for the lead after an opening 65 but fell away with rounds of 73 and 70. A 69 on Sunday saw him regain ground and earn a tie for fifth place. He has now earned enough cash to ensure his playing privileges for 2016.