Valimaki is champion

Sami Valimaki (second from right) receives the Oman Open trophy from H E Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah on Sunday (V K Shafeer/Muscat Daily)

It all came down to who could keep the nerve for a longer time as Finland's Sami Valimaki and South Africa's Brandon Stone slugged it out in an intense playoff to decide the winner of the 2020 Oman Open at the Al Mouj Golf on Sunday.

Finally, it was Valimaki, who emerged the champion in a dramatic playoff, edging Stone on the third attempt at the 18th hole.
It was Valimaki's maiden European Tour trophy that concluded the fourth and final day of the third edition of US$1.75mn Oman Open.

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 to force a playoff with the South African before an extra three trips back down the 18th saw him emerge 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 playoff.

“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 playoff.

“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 playoff 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 playoff after making a bogey at the 17th to drop him down to 12 under par. 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. Former world No 1 and two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer and 2018 champion Joost Luiten were among  eight tied at tenth.

Later, H E Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, presented the trophy to Valimaki in the presence of H E Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs, H E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhi, Minister of Oil & Gas and Oman Golf Association (OGA) patron, H H Sayyid Azzan bin Kais al Said, European Tour chairman David Williams, OGA chief Mundhir al Barwani, and other dignitaries.

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