Golf: Quiros holds nerve to claim Sicilian Open

Alvaro Quiros

SCIACCA, Sicily- Spaniard Alvaro Quiros has won the inaugural 2017 Rocco Forte Sicilian Open after he bounced back from a back nine of 40 to beat South African Zander Lombard in a play-off.

 Quiros got off to dream start, finding himself four under through the first six holes, largely thanks to two stunning long putts that he holed on the 5th and the 6th holes.

 The birdie at 6 gave Quiros a seemingly uncatchable seven shot lead, despite Lombard’s bright start of his own.

 The South African refused to give up, making birdies at the 7th and the 9th as he desperately tried to cling on to Quiros’ coattails.

 The 34-year-old Cadiz native showed the first chink in his armour with a sloppy bogey at the 8th hole, before a wayward drive on the 10th reduced his lead to just three.

 Another bogey at the 15th and the wheels were beginning to come off the Quiros wagon, which had seemingly looked unbeatable over the opening three days.

 Things then went from bad to worse for the Spaniard on the 16th, who blocked his tee shot way right into a bush, forcing him to take a penalty shot and eventually making a double bogey.

 Lombard also began to struggle, bogeying the 15th and the 17th, but due to Quiros’ problems the pair remained tied on 14 under as they stood on the 18th tee.

 After both players missed the green, the Spaniard showed his pedigree by holing a crucial 10 foot putt to force a playoff with Lombard, after the former had produced a delightful touch from the back of 18 to make his par.

 The players returned to the 18th tee and after halving the first play off hole with fours, the young South African three-putted second time round, gifting Quiros his seventh European Tour title.

 Quiros was coming into the week ranked 703rd in the world rankings, after a six year victory drought and a string of poor results meant that he failed to earn his card for 2017.

 However, this week in Italy has changed the course of his career, as he will move into the world’s top 250 and will also gain entry into next week’s BMW PGA Championship, the tour’s flagship event.

 "I'm very happy," said the Spaniard.

 "Obviously it shouldn't be like that but at the end it's a victory and that's the most important thing.

 "It's been a little bit of a mess. The game wasn't that bad. Just the last few holes I started to struggle with the wind left to right and he (Lombard) was playing nice, Pep was playing nice too.

 "I didn't have an idea how many shots I was leading by, what I knew on 18 is I have to make a putt to halve with Zander.

 "It's a victory, it means a lot of things. Unfortunately I didn't really like how I ended the round. It should never have been that far,” he added.

 Quiros will hoping this victory can be a springboard to better things and perhaps a place in the Europe Ryder Cup side when it comes to Rome in 2022.