NEWCASTLE, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Soren Kjeldsen ended a six-year victory drought to become the third Danish winner of the Irish Open, capturing a fourth career title with a birdie at the first extra playoff hole on Sunday.
The 40-year old, who also qualified for the Open Championship thanks to the win, went into the last day at the Royal County Down course leading by two shots but saw that disappear when commencing his round with back-to-back bogeys.
Kjeldsen then slipped further behind with a double bogey at the eighth before coming to the last hole and holing a short par putt to join England's Eddie Pepperell (69) and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (73) in a playoff following the Dane's round of a five-over-par 76 for a two under par total.
Kjeldsen then holed a four-foot birdie putt that actually did a half-loop of the cup at the first extra hole to deny his two rivals.
"I decided not to look at leaderboards today but once I started dropping shots I started looking and it gave me a little bit of pleasure that I was not the only one struggling out there," he told reporters.
"Overall it was just a brutal day out there and I was leaking shots left-right-and-center. I then played a great 3-wood in the playoff but then I have to say my heart was in my mouth when I saw my putt starting to horse-shoe.
"But then to see it drop was one the best moments in my career."
There was the added bonus for Kjeldsen of securing a place in July's Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Joining Kjeldsen in sealing an Open Championship berth courtesy of their Irish Open showing were Pepperell and Tyrrell Hatton (74), who shared fourth place.
Among the first to greet Kjeldsen after his victory was Northern Irish world number one and tournament host Rory McIlroy, who had missed the halfway cut.
Only five players managed to break par overall after wet and windy conditions during the week.
American Rickie Fowler had been well in contention up until the final two holes on day three when he finished with a pair of eights before signing off for a last day 73 and a seven over par total.
The world number nine will return to Europe early in July for the back-to-back Scottish Open and 144th Open Championship.
"I had a great time coming back here to Northern Ireland as the fans were awesome, at one of my favorite golf courses in the world," he said.
"It was also really cool to be asked by a good friend, Rory, to come over and play and help support his foundation."
After his recent Players Championship victory, Fowler will head to the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay from June 18 as one of the favorites given he was joint runner-up last year at Pinehurst No. 2.
Fowler believes the four days spent competing at Royal County Down could put him in good stead to lift a first major trophy.
"I haven’t played Chambers Bay and while I don’t know what to expect there, having played four tournament rounds, a pro-am and a practice round here at Royal County Down it should only help my U.S. Open cause," he said.
"So it should be good prep for there and I would also consider good preparation for the Scottish Open, The Open and even Whistling Straits which is a links-type course.
"It’s quite unique to have such a run of these type of courses so your game for playing those type of shots you seem to only play on a links course should be pretty sharp."
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