It wasn’t the ending the crowd wanted at the Hero Indian Open Saturday, but it was a thrilling finish.
England’s Matt Wallace defeated countryman Andrew Johnston in a one-hole playoff to take the title after local favourite Shubhankar Sharma fell apart in the final round after being tied for the lead through 54 holes.
Johnston was nearly perfect in regulation, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 66 to catch Wallace and force a playoff. Wallace had been close to perfect himself, shooting the front nine at 4-under and adding a birdie on #10. But he couldn’t add to it the rest of the way, and a bogey on #16 gave Johnston his opening, as he forced the tie with a birdie on 17.
Both finished regulation at 11-under. In the first extra hole, Wallace blasted a big drive while Johnston laid up. After playing brilliantly all day, Johnston’s birdie putt lipped out, giving Wallace two putts for the title.
“I played great,” he said. “Ever since being three over through eight at the start of the week I’ve played some of the best golf of my life and to do it in that style at the end there capped it off. I hit some really good shots and that play-off: I pumped it down there on the last and it went a long way and then a four iron went even further than I thought it would so I was jacked up a bit. To hit two shots like that is exactly why I play the game.”
The 27-year old Wallace has two European Tour wins now, both coming in the last 10 months. His maiden victory was last May at the Open de Portugal.
The pair of Brits finished three shots clear of the next-highest score, which came from American Sihwan Kim (-8).
Indian sensation Sharma showed his inexperience playing with a lead for the second straight week. He birdied two of first four holes, then went south with double bogeys on #5 and #7. He salavaged a birdie on #9 for a front-nine 37 after shooting 7-under on the front during the first three rounds.
He was just as uneven on the back nine, his string of holes went: bogey, birdie, bar, bogey, birdie, double bogey, bogey, par, birdie to finish the back at 3-over. He shot 73-64-72-75 for the tournament to finish tied for seventh at 4-under.
The European Tour takes next week off followed by the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas March 21-25. Another week off precedes The Masters April 5-8. The European Tour returns to its native soil on April 12-15 with the Open de Espana in Madrid.