ADARE, Ireland (AP) — Richard Finch shot a 2-under 70 after falling into a river (photos | video) on the last hole Sunday to win the Irish Open by two strokes for his second European Tour victory of the season.
The 30-year-old Englishman, whose first career victory was in the New Zealand Open last December, finished at 10-under 278.
Finch was playing his third shot from the rough beside the 18th green next to the River Maigue when the momentum of his swing caused him to topple into the cold water up to his chest.
He clambered out to see that his ball had finished on the edge of the green, and had the luxury of three putts to secure his victory.
“It was a bit of an awkward stance, but I never gave a thought to falling in,” he said. “The momentum on the followthrough took me in. It wasn’t that cold. And I was a good swimmer in my youth.”
The win boosted him to fifth place on the Order of Merit.
Felipe Aguilar of Chile took second place at 280 with a closing 70.
Gary Murphy shot a 69 to finish another shot back in a tie for third with Maarten Lafeber (67), Robert Karlsson (71) and Lee Westwood (72).
Defending champion Padraig Harrington had a 76 for a share of 31st place.
Seven months ago, Finch looked as though he would lose his playing card for this year until he finished seventh in the final qualifying event. Two months after that, he won in New Zealand for his first victory in his 90th tournament.
“I didn’t change anything. I’m just doing everything better,” Finch said. “I’m still in shock. I tried all last night and today not to think about winning because I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I was really pleased with how I was mentally. I felt calm and in control.”
Finch is now 10th in the Ryder Cup standings
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I haven’t even played in a major yet and my goal this year was to try to qualify for one of those.”
Finch had planned a practice round at Walton Heath on Monday to prepare for qualifying in two weeks’ time for next month’s U.S. Open.
When he left the course Sunday night, he was not sure if he’d get there Monday.
Aguilar, a 33-year-old Chilean, made a run at Finch with three successive birdies starting with the 13th. But he bogeyed the 16th and needed a birdie at No. 18 to take second place on his own.
For a while Sunday, it looked as if Lafeber might steal the title after completing his 67 with an eagle at the 18th – two hours before the final pair finished.
Murphy, Karlsson and Westwood also birdied the last hole.
Westwood dropped three shots on the first four holes, while Karlsson bogeyed the 11th and 13th.
Murphy had four birdies in his first six holes, but had two bogeys and didn’t make another birdie until the 18th. He had missed the cut in five of his last six tournaments.
Overnight leader Bradley Dredge, loser in a playoff last year, shot a 76 to share eighth place.