Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil continued his fine run of form on the European Challenge Tour, finishing in a tie for second behind Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm at the Italian Challenge Open in Sardinia.
Former Amateur champion Neil has rocketed up to seventh spot in the Road to Oman rankings, building on last week’s share of second in the inaugural Prague Golf Challenge, where England’s Garrick Porteous triumphed.
The 21-year-old closed with a level par 71 after leading by two going into the final round, while he has now recorded sub-70 scores in nine of his last eight rounds.
“My confidence is high and I’m playing well,” said Neil. “It’s great to be in this position at this point in the season but there is still a long way to go. All the guys are shooting good scores, but I practice really hard to get in to these positions.”
Joel Sjöholm won his maiden European Challenge Tour title in style by carding a final round of 65 to triumph by four shots in Italy.
The Swede started the final day two strokes behind overnight leader Neil, but following four birdies over the front nine he took the lead at Is Molas Resort.
After Neil double-bogeyed the 10th, Sjöholm saw his lead rise to three shots, and after further gains at 12, 13 and 16, the 32-year-old had the luxury of walking down the last with a four-shot cushion.
Nine years since he joined the paid ranks, a jubilant Sjöholm was overjoyed to have claimed his first professional victory. “It feels amazing,” he said. “I never thought when I was ten years old that I would have to wait until I was 32 before I earned my first victory as a professional.
“It is close to being the best thing that has ever happened to me. Obviously having children and getting married will always be the most special thing, but this is pretty incredible.
“I shouldn’t really be standing here. I was playing on an invite this week, and I have to thank Alain, the Challenge Tour Director, and my management for getting me into the tournament.
“I only got here on Wednesday, I missed my flight on Monday, and I was a little bit worried about not being able to play the golf course – but this week I just putted really well and that was the difference.”
Playing with Sjöholm in the final group were Neil and Chase Koepka, two players the experienced Swede didn’t think he was going to get the better of.
“When I started the day I didn’t think I was going to win,” he said. “Playing with Bradley yesterday I knew I had to play as best as I possibly could to have a chance.
“He messed up on hole number ten when he hit it in the water. Chase also missed a short putt and straight away that gave me a huge advantage – instead of leading by one I was leading by three.
“I played with two amazing players today. They tried their best but my putter was extremely hot this week, and although Chase and Bradley both played better than me from tee to green it was my putter that was the difference.”