Newcastle, Northern Ireland (SportsNetwork.com) - Soren Kjeldsen birdied the first playoff hole on Sunday to defeat Bernd Wiesberger and Eddie Pepperell and win the Irish Open.
On a windy day that yielded just four rounds under par, Kjeldsen struggled to a 5-over 76, but was still able to come out on top. He finished regulation play tied with Wiesberger and Pepperell at 2-under-par 282. Kjeldsen, who entered the day with a 2-shot lead, now has four career victories on the European Tour.
"Three weeks ago I was 112th in the Order of Merit and my game was not in good shape. With turning 40 you wonder was that it," Kjeldsen wondered. "Now I am standing here and it's pretty remarkable really."
Wiesberger carded a 2-over 73 at Royal County Down Golf Club, while Pepperell was one of the four to shoot under par with a 2-under 69.
Tyrrell Hatton (74) and Rafa Cabrera-Bello (75) were the only other players to finish the week under par. The duo tied for fourth and ended at 1-under 283. Danny Willett (68) and Andy Sullivan (71) finished one shot further back at even-par.
Kjeldsen put the pressure on everyone else on the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th, when he hit the middle of the green in two.
Wiesberger was forced to lay up short of the green in the fairway and Pepperell hit his second right into the thick rough. His ensuing chip came up short and rolled back into a collection area.
After Wiesberger knocked his third to about 15 feet, Pepperell chipped to a couple feet and made par. Kjeldsen's eagle effort stopped about four feet to the right of the hole and he marked his ball to await Wiesberger's birdie try.
When Wiesberger missed his putt, Kjeldsen's ball did a full rotation around the cup before falling in for birdie and the victory. It was just Kjeldsen's second birdie all day.
"The last breath I took was on about the 14th. I have never been as nervous as this in the other tournaments I have won," Kjeldsen said. "I had decided not to look at leaderboards but once I started dropping shots I started looking because it gave me a little pleasure that I wasn't the only one struggling because it was such a brutal day."
It was a wild up-and-down day for pretty much every player as the wind and spots of rain played a huge factor.
Kjeldsen struggled right from the start with back-to-back bogeys on one and two. After running off five straight pars from three, the Dane fell all the way back to 3-under with a double-bogey on No. 8.
Despite not making a single birdie all day, Cabrera-Bello stuck around and had the lead with Kjeldsen for a while. Bogeys on four and eight left Cabrera- Bello at minus-3 around the turn, where he was met by Kjeldsen after his double-bogey.
While most of the field was struggling to make pars, Pepperell went bogey-free and made two birdies in the process at eight and 13. He posted the early clubhouse lead at minus-2 and had to wait for a while.
Wiesberger threw his name into the mix as well. A birdie at the first was his last one for a while as the Austrian made five bogeys in a six-hole stretch from No. 5. Still, back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 had Wiesberger just a shot back of Kjeldsen and Cabrera-Bello.
A 2-putt birdie at the par-5 12th gave Kjeldsen the outright lead once again and Wiesberger fell back to minus-1 with a bogey on 15.
However, Kjeldsen missed a short par putt on 14 and made bogey, dropping him back into a tie for first with Cabrera-Bello again. Cabrera-Bello then dropped a shot on 15 and Kjeldsen was out in front on his own once again.
Wiesberger chipped in for a big birdie on No. 16 and that pulled him even with Pepperell and Cabrera-Bello at 2-under, just one back of the leader.
With Wiesberger finished after two pars, there were still two players on the course threatening. Needing a par at the last to at least have a shot at a playoff, Cabrera-Bello tripped to a huge bogey, dropping him back to minus-1 and out of contention.
Leading through 16 holes, Kjeldsen needed two pars for victory, but a 3-putt bogey on 17 dropped him back into a tie for the lead with Wiesberger and Pepperell. Kjeldsen finished with a par at the last to force a playoff.
NOTES: This was the fourth playoff on the European Tour this season ... The score of 2-under is the highest winning score on tour this season by five shots. Anirban Lahiri's 7-under total at the Indian Open was the previous high ... Kjeldsen's last win was at the 2009 Open de Andalucia ... He has now won four times in a row when he has held the 54-hole lead ... Kjeldsen earned 416,660 euros with this victory ... The European Tour is in Sweden next week for the Nordea Masters, where Thongchai Jaidee won in a playoff last season.