KLM Open: Romain Wattel hangs on for first European Tour win

SPIJK, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 17: Romain Wattel of France celebrates winning on the 18th hole during Day Four of the KLM Open at The Dutch on September 17, 2017 in Spijk, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
SPIJK, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 17: Romain Wattel of France celebrates winning on the 18th hole during Day Four of the KLM Open at The Dutch on September 17, 2017 in Spijk, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

Romain Wattel earns his maiden European Tour win at the KLM Open in his 187th career start.

It wasn’t easy for Romain Wattel down the stretch, but the 26-year-old put together a two-under-par 69 on Sunday to win by one stroke at the KLM Open at The Dutch in Spijk, Netherlands.

Wattel entered the week No. 130 in the Race to Dubai and in danger of losing his European Tour card as the season begins to tick down.

He’d been so close to victory in his career with two runner-up finishes and several more top-fives, including a tie for fifth place at the 2014 KLM Open.

The enormity of the moment appeared to show based on Wattel’s cautious play down the stretch. In the end, though, he withstood some mistakes to make par on his last seven holes while his playing partners faltered.

The par-5 15th was the first pivotal hole for Wattel, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Joel Stalter all tied at 15-under. Neither could create much separation throughout the day, but things would begin to shake out starting here.

Each butchered one of The Dutch’s best birdie chances. Mitigating the damage proved to be the difference maker.

Aphibarnat, a three-time European Tour winner, looked the most composed of the trio up to this point. He was working on a bogey-free round of two-under and made birdie on the par-3 14th before finding the water on his second shot on 15. He proceeded to thin his chip shot into a bunker and made double bogey.

Stalter’s follies weren’t quite as magnified, but his poor ballstriking led to a bogey. That was his third blemish on the back nine that proved to kill momentum he built in what was otherwise his season’s best finish, a T3.

Things weren’t a walk in the park on 15 for Wattel, either, but he squeaked out a par to suddenly find himself in the lead.

Wattel owned the closing stretch

Romain Wattel KLM Open European Tour
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

Wattel wasn’t mistake free his next two holes, but his scorecard was. An errant tee shot on No. 17 nearly found the water, but no damage was done.

On 18, Wattel laid up to make the par-5 a three-shot hole. It was a decision influenced by a shaky driver that showed up on No. 17. Wattel admitted in the post round interview on Golf Channel that he kept driver in the bag as much as possible on Sunday in favor of the 3 wood.

Aphibarnrat found himself down just one to Wattel and smoked a drive on 18 to give himself a chance at getting on in two. That dream died a wet death as the Thai pumped another ball in the water, resulting in a disgusted club toss.

His frustrations hadn’t boiled over when he made it to the green as he missed a gimmie to wind up with his second double bogey on a par-5 on Sunday. He finished T9.

Aphibarnrat’s mistake left it up to Wattel, who hit two short layups to set up about 150 yards into the green for his third.

Wattel knew he needed to make a 5 for the outright win with Austin Connelly in the house at 14-under. Connelly stiffed his approach to make birdie on 18 two groups prior.

Wattel’s approach was on target but missed the green by a few paces. He used putter from the fairway to strike a clutch birdie try that finished inches from the cup.

Victory, full European Tour status and €300,000 were all Wattel’s. Not a bad result for your first top-25 of the year.

European Tour Notes

  • Lee Westwood hit the ball as well as any this week, but the putter continues to betray him. He finished T3 at 13-under, good for his highest finish of the year and second top-10 in three events.
  • Connelly recorded his best career finish the day before his 21st birthday. The American made a name for himself this summer from his fine play at The Open that netted a T14.
  • Defending champion and native son, Joost Luiten, didn’t have the magic to win his third KLM Open. A 75 in nasty conditions Thursday resulted in his first missed cut in this event since 2012 despite a Friday 68 to miss by one.
    • Daan Huizing filled in as lead Dutchman this week. The Challenge Tour player and world No. 507 made his first European Tour cut of the season and finished strong with a Sunday 67 to tie for 38th.
  • World No. 34 Bernd Wiesberger was the highest-ranked player in the field this week. He carded a bogey-free five-under 66 on Sunday to finish T9 for his first top-10 since April. Wiesberger played The Dutch’s back nine in 12-under this week.
  • The low round of the tournament also goes to Wattel. He shot seven-under 64 on Saturday which included four birdies in a row on Nos. 8-12 and seven birdies from 6-16.

Next: Major Series of Putting: Championship course is set and ready for action

Who will gain the edge as the Race to Dubai draws to a close? We’ll keep you up to date with all the action on the European Tour as the action heats up.