RASMUS Højgaard became only the second teenager to win twice on the European Tour after edging out Justin Walters in a play-off for the 2020 ISPS Handa UK Championship.
On a dramatic final day at The Belfry, the 19-year-old, from Denmark, came from five strokes back to finish level with Walters on 14-under par.
When the contest went to extra holes, Højgaard held his nerve with consecutive pars down the 18th, with his South African opponent making a bogey on the second trip back down the last.
With three UK Swing top 10s in addition to his victory at The Belfry, Højgaard topped the European Tour’s mini Order of Merit.
Rasmus also received an additional £60,000 to donate to charity, with the Childhood Cancer Foundation and Ronald McDonald House in Denmark – his nominated charities under the Tour’s Golf for Good initiative.
Højgaard said: “It feels good. I didn’t really expect it. I started five shots back.
“So I was just trying to score as low and possible and see where I ended up. I ended up in a play-off and with a win as well, so I was very happy.”
The young prodigy admitted he had a pretty good idea of where he stood in the tournament as he chased that second win.
Rasmus revealed: “I did take a look at some of the leaderboards. So I had a feeling of where I was.
“But I just tried to keep my focus on what I can control. And that is setting up as many birdie chances as possible.
“(The Brabazon Course) was in really good condition and the wind dropped down a bit. So you can actually give yourself a lot of chances.
“You can see that with the scores as well, it was gettable out there.”
Højgaard’s habit of history-making
HØJGAARD became the first player born in the 21st century to come through Qualifying School last year.
Italian Matteo Manassero is the only other player to have captured two titles before turning 20.
Manassero announced his talent when beating Hamphire’s Sam Hutsby in the 2009 Amateur Championship final at Formby, aged just 17.
After winning the Castello Masters in Spain in 2010 and the 2011 Malyasian Maybank Open, Matteo went on to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, in 2013.
But after four wins between 2010 and 2013, he suffered a serious slump after trying to increase his distance off the tee.
Rasmus is not worried about changing his game at the moment.
Højgaard added: “I had a good amateur career and achieved a few things there.
“I learned how to be in contention and manage myself, and have brought that along to my professional career. It has been working so far which has been awesome.”
After reaching the turn in 33, Højgaard dropped his first shot of the day on the 12th.
That appeared to leave Walters and two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer battling for the title.
But in a remarkable finish,Højgaard birdied the 14th and 16th. He then eagled the par five 17th to complete a round of 65.
Kaymer finished in a tie for third place alongside France’s Benjamin Hebert on 13-under. A bogey on 17 denied the German a play-off place after he missed the green on the par five.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Scotland’s Craig Howie were a further shot back. They were joined on 11-under by Huddersfield’s enigmatic Marcus “The Bullet” Armitage and Spaniard Jorge Campillo.
•To see the final scores in the ISPS Handa UK Championship click here.
Walters blames ‘old-self’ for costly mistakes
WALTERS famously finished second in Portugal in the season-ending event to save his Tour card in 2013. He repeated that feat in 2019.
Seven years ago, the South African-born player had lost his mother, who was born in England.
Last summer he lost his father. And the anniversary of his death was certainly uppermost in his mind as he found that form again at the famous Ryder Cup venue.
The Belfry was eerily silent without crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walters said: “It’s disappointing but I only have myself to blame really. I hit three bad tee shots in regulation, which really cost me.
“But after all of that being said, to birdie three out of the last five – or however many it was – to get into that position. That’s good too. Got to focus on that.
“Certainly, the drive on eight and that short, missed putt – that’s cost me the tournament.
“You would have thought I would have learned the value of one shot by now. But it’s a major step forward from what I have been doing.
“The more I put myself in that situation I think I’ll come out on top eventually.
“I smiled because I’ve learned to mess things up like that. I just thought, that’s the old Justin coming through to test me a little bit.
“So I just looked at it from that point of view. Here’s the test. Here’s the challenge. Let’s see how we respond to it.
“I felt like I responded pretty good, aside from the bogey on 13,” added Walters, who is coached by West Sussex’s Ryan Fenwick.
Walters was eligibile to play for the country of his mother’s birth and was capped by England an amateur in 2003 before turning pro that year.
Kaymer keeps the faith as run without win continues
MARTIN Kaymer was not too down beat despite having a great chance to end a six-year spell without a win.
Kaymer, who won the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst, said: “I had a really good chance this week to win a golf tournament again.
“Unfortunately, it was not to be today. I was really battling all day, playing well, made some good putts coming in.
“Unfortunately, that mistake on 17 – you can’t make that at the end of the round when you are trying to win a tournament.
“Overall, really happy with my game. Looking forward to next week to see if we can create another chance.
“Before I had a look at the schedule, I thought I needed to get some preparation in before the US Open.
“When I saw The Belfry and Valderrama on the schedule it was a no-brainer, two great golf courses.”