Sami Valimaki sends Stone’s hopes crashing in play-off for Oman Open title at Al Mouj

2020 Oman Open winner Sami Valimaki – the third player from Finland to win on the European Tour
Sami Valimaki became the third Finn to win on the European Tour after his dramatic play-off win over Brandon Stone, to claim the Oman Open at Al Mouj. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

SAMI Valimaki won his first European Tour title as he defeated Brandon Stone in a play-off to lift the trophy at the 2020 Oman Open.

Just six months ago the unknown Finn was playing at the third tier of professional golf in Continental Europe – now he has a winner’s exemption on the European Tour until the end of 2022.

A delighted Valimaki, who joins Mikko Illonen and Mikko Korhonnen as Finnish winners on the European Tour, said:It’s awesome. There are not many words to say, it’s unbelievable.

“After the ninth hole when I made a double I knew that the 10th hole is good and I had to make a birdie on that,” said Sami Valimaki.

“I didn’t make a really good par on 11 and after that bogey I felt like, ‘okay this is gone’. But then I just grinded, made three birdies and on the last – an awesome birdie.

“I just needed to hit the fairways and the greens, it doesn’t matter how long you leave yourself, but you have to be on the green and get the chance to make the putt.

“I am feeling relaxed because I managed to get the birdies and gave myself that opportunity to win.

“I thought I was going to miss the putt on the last in regulation it but thank god it went to the hole and gave me the chance to win the tournament.

“It is great that more Finnish golfers are doing well in the sport and golf is getting more popular there in Finland.”

Valimaki had a stunning 2019 on the Pro Golf Tour, winning four times including three consecutive starts at the end of the season.

The 21-year-old claimed his card at November’s Qualifying School in Spain, and after securing a first top 10 the ISPS Handa Vic Open, he is now a winner in just his sixth European Tour event.

The Finn was outside the top 100 after day one at Al Mouj Golf. But a stunning 64 in round three put him alongside Stone in a six-way tie for the lead with 18 holes to play.

In difficult, breezy conditions by the coast, both Stone and Valimaki had held the lead on their own during the final day.

But it was Adrien Saddier who set the clubhouse target at 12-under, and the Frenchman calmly headed to the range to await the final groups completing their rounds.

But Stone put paid to Saddier’s hopes of a first win by getting to 13–under celebrating wildly as he holed a 20-footer on the last.

And there was more drama to come as Valimaki holed from similar range for his own closing birdie and a round of 70 to take the contest to extra holes – despite that double at the turn.

The duo halved the last in pars twice – but when Stone sent his second shot crashing into the stand on the third trip, and failed to get up and down, a par was enough to hand Valimaki victory.

Stone search for win No. 4 goes on

STONE was taking positives from the result despite losing his first play-off and coming up short in his bid for a fourth European title since the start of 2016.

He had spoken earlier in the week about how happy he was with work the South African, and his support team, had undertaken since last year to take his game to the next level.

“Obviously I’m a little disappointed but I’m really proud with how I played over the last four days,” said Stone – one of just 15 players to have won a Rolex Series event, thanks to his 2018 Scottish Open win.

“It feels like I’m closer again,” said Stone. “My confidence and swing are starting to come back.

“I’m feeling really comfortable and unfortunately, I came up a little shy, but the best thing about our job is I get to try again on Thursday,” added Stone, who finished sixth at the 2015 Challenge Tour Grand Final at Al Mouj Golf, to earn his graduation to the European Tour.

“We’re professional sportsmen and full of emotion which showed with my putt on the 18th in regulation.

“I knew I needed to hole that to give myself a sniff. I managed to get it done. We leave it all out on the line – a lot of time and effort goes into this.”

Italian Guido Migliozzi and Korhonen finished at 11-under, two shots clear of Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares, South African George Coetzee, Danish teenager Rasmus Højgaard and Wiltshire’s Jordan Smith.

•For final results in the Oman Open click here.

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