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Spain’s Javier Sainz claims the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge after heartbreaking miss in sudden death

Javier Sainz with the trophy for his win at Newmachar.
Javier Sainz with the trophy for his win at Newmachar.

Javier Sainz, who grew up playing with Jon Rahm in Northern Spain, pulled off a career breakthrough win after sudden death in the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge.

The 29-year-old, now based in Barcelona, holed an eight-foot putt for birdie at the second extra hole – the 18th – at Newmachar. He then watched as Switzerland’s Jeremy Freiburghaus missed a heartbreaker from around three feet to end the contest.

Final round 66 forces late lead

Freiburghaus had birdied the last in regulation just 40 minutes earlier. That forced extra time after Sainz’s five-under 66 had given him the lead at 11-under.

The Swiss player had a four-shot lead overnight after his brilliant Saturday 64, but saw it all fall away on a chilly, showery day in Aberdeenshire.

Sainz is from the same Basque country background as the US Open champion Rahm, and they played together in junior golf. But their careers have gone in markedly different directions.

While Rahm ascended to World No 1, Sainz struggled until his Sunday in Scotland. His €43,000 winner’s cheque at Newmachar is more than double his entire career earnings from six seasons as a professional.

Just the fact that he was contending at all this weekend was enough for him, he said.

‘Winning is secondary’

“It means a lot, but winning is secondary,” he said. “Even if I hadn’t won, this week would have made me happy, because all week in the wind I was in the right positions with a good mind.

“I was not good in my mind three weeks ago, so I only started my season last week in Spain.

“I’m very happy to win in just my second week. It is only the second time I’ve been in the final groups, so that was a good experience.

“I played solid all week I putted really well for two rounds in particular. I am bery happy with the whole week.”

Sainz was certainly not the favourite at four behind going into the final day and still not in the play-off. Freiburghaus outdrove him by 50 to 60 yards on the first play-off hole, but they both ended with par fours.

Again the Swiss was well up the fairway second time around, but when the Spaniard hit into eight feet Freiburghaus almost stiffed his wedge. However the spin took it three feet away and after Sainz holed, the Swiss player missed his simple chance to extend the contest.

‘You learn a lot from players like Jon’

Sainz played with Jon Rahm in junior golf.

Sainz has plenty of good memories from playing in Scotland as an amateur, but this was his first time as a pro.

“I’ve played so many times in Scotland in British Amateurs. I remember playing at Barassie, Dundonald – a hard course – and also the Old Course at St Andrews. They’re good memories from Scotland in my amateur career.

“It helps to come from such a good system in Spain. I played with Jon Rahm until I was 18. He’s from the same area as me and you learn a lot from players like Jon.”

Freiburghaus’ consolation is that it was his second top five in as many weeks and takes him into the top 5 in the Road To Mallorca rankings.

England’s Tom Sloman has a chance on the last hole of regulation to join the play-off, but missed a birdie chance from six feet.

Scotland’s best finishers were Callum Fyfe and Perth’s Daniel Young who finished with three under-par rounds including a one-under 70 on Sunday. They shared 20th place in three-under.

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