BMW PGA Championship: Ryan Fox birdies 18th to pip Tyrrell Hatton and Aaron Rai at Wentworth
Ryan Fox produced a sensational back-nine performance to claim a thrilling one-shot victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The early narrative ahead of the final round was that we could see the crowning of a new superstar in Ludvig Åberg and then, following a Sunday charge from Rory McIlroy, it looked as though Tyrrell Hatton was going to stroll to victory.
However, New Zealander Fox, who looked down and out after a triple-bogey at the third, emerged from the pack and made a crucial birdie at the 18th to snatch the title after Hatton had birdied the same hole moments earlier.
• Round Four - as it happened
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The 36-year-old carded a five-under 67 to finish on 18 under and secure his fourth DP World Tour success, ending up just a single shot ahead of Hatton and also his playing partner Aaron Rai, who was a whisker away from forcing a play-off with an eagle at the last.
Jon Rahm, who also went close to an eagle at the last, finished fourth on 16 under with another European Ryder Cup star, Viktor Hovland, fifth on 15 under.
Fox started the day three behind Åberg but a wild drive into the trees down the right at the par-four third seemingly put paid to his chances as he racked up a triple-bogey.
Two solid approaches at the sixth and eighth set up birdies as he began to claw his way back up the leaderboard and a superb tee shot to three feet saw him birdie the 10th, which he followed up with gains at 11 and 12 with more good iron play.
Another well-placed tee shot at the 14th took him within a shot of Hatton's lead and he was suddenly in front after birdieing the 15th thanks to a brilliant second shot from between trees shortly after Hatton had bogeyed the same hole.
Fox let birdie chances slip by at the 16th and 17th, meaning he took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee, but that disappeared as Hatton made birdie as he prepared to lay-up.
The New Zealander held his nerve, though, and knocked his third shot to six feet from where he confidently converted his eighth birdie of the day after Rai had applied further pressure.
"I certainly didn't think I would be talking to you after the third hole today," Fox told Sky Sports after sealing victory.
"To have a back nine like that, especially after how I started the day, it's amazing. I played great. Pretty much didn't miss a shot from the third hole onwards and saw a couple of putts go in and it was pretty cool feeling on the last to sort of know I had one to win and actually make it."
Hatton stormed through the field with five birdies over the first seven holes - also missing an easy chance at the fourth - the pick of which saw him almost notch a hole-in-one as he hit the pin at the fifth before holing a bunker shot at the sixth.
He bounced back from a bogey at the eighth with back-to-back gains at the 10th and 11th to move four clear of the field and on track to follow up his 2020 win.
However, he parred the next three holes as his rivals, including Fox, closed in, and then hooked his tee shot at the 15th out of bounds shortly before an 88-minute break due to rain and the threat of lightning.
The Englishman had gone close with his fourth shot, though, and holed out for a bogey when play resumed, but that allowed Fox to take his chance in behind him.
Missed opportunities at 16 and 17 proved frustrating but Hatton stood firm, although the birdie at the last left him just short with a score of 66.
"It's definitely mixed emotions," said Hatton. "It was nice to have a great week, and now to get ready for The Ryder Cup, so I take some confidence from that into that week.
"But it was nice to be in it; this tournament means a lot to me. Would have been nice to win with fans, especially my dad being here, that would have been cool.
"But seeing Foxy out there, a pretty special 13 holes. Not sure I'll be disappointed with the tee shot on 15, started raining pretty heavy. It is what it is. Tried my best and it was a great week."
Rai had opened with a bogey but kept in touch throughout his round, with four birdies over the closing six holes also just not quite enough as he signed for a 68.
Rahm looked to have blown his chance with three successive bogeys from the fifth, but an eagle at the 12th sparked his comeback and three subsequent birdies will have left him as another player thinking about what might have been.
Hovland never really threatened the top of the leaderboard as he recorded a solid 67 to finish one ahead of Tommy Fleetwood, who failed to fire in the final group as he mixed three birdies with three bogeys in a level-par 72.
McIlroy, who just made the cut on Friday, appeared out of the picture at six under at the start of the day but his attacking game saw him birdie the second and third before making a textbook eagle at the fourth.
His only blemish came at the sixth but four subsequent birdies lifted him to 13 under with the two par-fives to play, only for him to be left frustrated as he parred both for a seven-under 65.
That saw McIlroy tie for seventh place alongside Callum Shinkwin (72) and Adam Scott (68).
Åberg had produced almost flawless golf over the first three days and began with a two-shot cushion, but the 23-year-old Swede is clearly still on a learning curve and he never really looked at the races after missing a short putt to bogey the first.
Two poor chips from the greenside rough, followed by further missed short putts at both the fifth and seventh, saw him rack up two double-bogeys which took him out of contention.
Åberg's run of eight consecutive scores in the 60s was ended by a 76 that left him joint-10th on 12 under with Connor Syme (74), Sepp Straka (71) and Hennie du Plessis (69).
Defending champion Shane Lowry (71) finished joint-18th on 10 under after a quadruple-bogey nine at the 17th wrecked his card.
Live coverage from the opening day of the Ryder Cup begins on Friday September 29 from 6am on Sky Sports Golf, while live programming begins on Monday September 25. Stream the PGA Tour, DP Tour, Ryder Cup and more with NOW.