Frenchman Alexander Levy mowed down a seven-stroke deficit in the final round to win the Volvo China Open in a play-off against overnight leader South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli.
It was Levy’s fourth European Tour victory and second in the China Open.
With Levy in the clubhouse, Frittelli would have won in regulation with a birdie on the last but a disappointing par meant the two went back to the tee of the par-5 18th for a play-off with Levy taking the title thanks to a birdie four, which Frittelli was unable to match.
For Levy, who carded a five under 67 to Frittelli’s two over 74 in the final round to both finish on 17 under, it meant a repeat of his 2014 Volvo China Open win making him the first two-time champion in the event’s 23-year history. Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal took third place one shot out of the play-off.
“It’s fantastic – I’m really happy as the 2014 Volvo China Open was when I got my first win on the tour so the event means a lot to me and I enjoy playing in China,” Levy said.
The 26-year-old started the day seven shots behind Frittelli and produced the biggest final round comeback by a winner in the history of the tournament.
“At the start of the round I was thinking maybe top three would be a good result but when I was on the 15th green and saw I was just one shot behind … that’s when I began to believe I could win the tournament,” Levy said.
Despite an opening day course record 63 at Beijing’s Topwin Golf and Country Club, Levy’s chance appeared to have gone when Frittelli opened up a five-shot lead on the field after the opening two holes of the closing day.
But six birdies in that final round 67, combined with Frittelli’s collapse, saw Levy collect the trophy and a cheque for €448,000. It also elevated him to 11th place in the Race to Dubai standings.
“I’ve been in that position before so I know how hard it is to lose a play-off after leading for so long,” Levy added. “I haven’t had a chance to speak to Dylan but I’ll tell him he can learn from this just as I did.”
Five shots ahead of his nearest challenger with 16 holes to play, Fritelli could not find the form that saw him take command of the tournament with rounds of 63 and 64 on days two and three. Tee shots that ended up against the base of a tree on the 12th and under a rock edge on the 16th ultimately cost him three shots and summed up his day.
“It definitely stings a little bit as I let it go there at the end but I’m still proud of the way I played this week,” Fritelli said.
“Seventeen-under par on this golf course is nothing to scoff at. I’m also proud of Alex as he played really well to come back like that. Most people probably thought I had it in the bag even with 18 holes to go but he stuck to it and played well in the play-off.
“The lead probably made it tough to get motivated. I was trying to make birdies but I just couldn’t get them to go in and had two bad breaks on the back nine – they were actually bad swings – but I’ll take the good and the bad and try to get back in contention further on in the season.”
New South Welshman Sam Brazel and South Australian Justin Norris were the best of the Aussie contingent finishing at four under and T48. West Australian Brett Rumford was a further two strokes back, tied for 59th.