By Kent Gray
New KLM Open champion Romain Wattel sparked celebrations at Jumeirah Golf Estates after becoming the fourth Dubai-based professional to win on the European Tour this season.
The 26-year-old Frenchman, who trains out of the European Tour Performance Institute [EPTI] at JGE, got up and down on the 72nd hole at The Dutch for a closing 69 Sunday to claim his maiden European Tour title by a stroke from Canadian Austin Connelly.
Wattel, who had recorded 25 top-ten finishes in his previous 186 events without tasting victory, joins fellow Dubai-residents Alvaro Quiros (Rocco Forte Open in May), Rafa Cabrera Bello (July’s Scottish Open) and Adrian Otaegui (Paul Lawrie Match Play last month) as winners this season.
“I have been in contention before and while I had not won before I knew what I had to do,” said Wattel who had not finished better than 24th in any of his previous 20 events this season.
“I knew what I had to expect and thankfully this time it was my week. It feels amazing to win for the first time…I am so happy right now.”
The win saw Wattel go from season earnings of €183,348 to €483,348 in an instant and leap frog from 130th in the Race to Dubai standings to 55th.
It leaves him in prime position to earn one of 60 spots in the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship at his home JGE from November 16-19.
“With the Ryder Cup being played in France next year, it would be fantastic to see a Frenchman make it in to the European team,” Nick Tarratt, the Director of the European Tour International Dubai office, also noted.
“We wish Romain all the best in his quest to qualify for the season finale in November and for The Ryder Cup next year.”
Wattel started the final round in Spijk a shot adrift of Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat but birdied three of his first six holes to snare the lead.
He stayed in control until the wobble on the last when he missed the green with his approach but a delightful up-and-down got the job done.
Connelly’s runner-up finish at the KLM Open earned him a healthy tally of 200,000 points. He now leapfrogs from 123rd to 71st place in the Race to Dubai rankings and on the cusp of qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship.
Meanwhile George Coetzee and Eddie Pepperell picked up a much-needed 73,500 points each as they finished tied for third place with Wattel’s fellow Dubai resident Sebastian Heisele plus Lee Westwood, Justin Walters and Joel Salter to put themselves in a better position to break in to the top 60 in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
Coetzee moves to 64th while Pepperell is in 75th spot. Westwood, improved his rankings position one place from 26th to 25th, Heisel moves from 162nd to 131st, Walters from 146th to 122nd and Salter from 157th to 129th.
There was also movement on top of the Race to Dubai as Bernd Wiesberger’s top ten finish in the Netherlands saw him surpass Rory McIlroy for ninth spot in the rankings.