Romain Wattel’s first European Tour victory couldn’t have come at a better time – just a year before the Ryder Cup is held in his homeland.
The 28-year-old Frenchman emerged triumphant in the $2.1 million KLM Open after posting a closing 2-under 69 to pip Texas-based Canadian Austin Connelly by a shot. His 15-under 269 earned him a check for $358,000, with Connelly picking up just under $240,000.
Wattel arrived in The Netherlands having missed six cuts in his previous nine tournaments, with a T-24 in the Volvo China Open his best performance of the year. He was ranked 130th on the money list and in danger of losing his playing rights. However, he found the game that has marked him out as a future European Tour winner since he helped France win the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship.
One shot behind Kiradech Aphibarnrat after 54 holes, Wattel was the steadier of the two players in the final group. He held his nerve as Aphibarnrat fell apart down the stretch. The Thai golfer recorded double-bogey sevens at the 15th and 18th holes to finish in joint ninth place.
“I came to this tournament, I was playing poorly to be honest,” Wattel said. “Last week I struggled with my game.
“I am happy with the way I played all week. It’s been a very nice weekend.
“I’ve been putting really bad the last two years. I think I’m a really good putter but the last two years were tough for me.
“I never thought about the score, I just tried to play my best. I was just trying to be as high as I could on the leaderboard, but it was very tight. I just tried to play my own game.”
Wattel moves to 55th on the money list. He also moves to second on the European Ryder Cup points list behind England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick. French golf fans will hope he can stay in that spot to play in next year’s match at Le Golf National, Paris.
Connelly had six birdies in a closing 66 to finish second on 14 under. The 20-year-old moved to 71st on the European money list with just under $490,000 in earnings, enough to ensure playing rights for next season.
Lee Westwood matched Wattel’s 69 to finish in a tie for third on 13 under along with Joel Stalter of France, Germany’s Sebastian Heisele, Englishman Eddie Pepperell and South Africans George Coetzee and Justin Walters.