(Reuters) – Sebastian Soderberg was thrilled to play Sunday’s final round of the European Masters with Rory McIlroy but he did not let the occasion overwhelm him as he won the title following a five-way playoff in the Swiss Alps.
The Swede sank his winning birdie putt from about 10 feet at the first extra hole and then watched as McIlroy and Finland’s Kalle Samooja both missed from shorter distances at Crans-sur-Sierre in Crans Montana.
Soderberg looked to have frittered away victory earlier when he three-putted from short range at the 17th hole in regulation.
But he regrouped to par the last hole to card four-under-par 66 and then clinched his first European Tour triumph at the same hole in the playoff.
In his 50th European Tour appearance, Soderberg finished at 14-under 266 along with McIlroy (67), Samooja (67), Italian Lorenzo Gagli (67) and Argentine Andres Romero (70).
Earlier, Soderberg had jumped to the front with five consecutive birdies but he felt he was “crumbling” after frittering away his lead at the 17th hole.
“I thought it was exciting enough to just come out here and play with Rory,” the 28-year-old said in a greenside interview.
“I was shaking the last few holes. I’m very proud of myself to play good when I feel like I’m shaking (though) I was way more calm in the playoff than in the last few holes.”
McIlroy, a week after winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, could not quite close the deal though he rallied late with five birdies in a six-hole stretch.
“Too many mistakes,” he said of a week that included 14 bogeys.
“I made enough birdies, but I just didn’t quite have it over the weekend.
“This is my seventh event in eight weeks. I think playing so much, sometimes mental errors creep in here and there.”
McIlroy sank a curling 18-foot birdie putt at the 17th to tie for the lead, but then carved his five-wood tee shot way right into the pines at the par-four 18th.
His ball ended up near a stone plaque which marks the spot from where Seve Ballesteros made a stunning birdie to win the same event in 1993 after firing his recovery shot over a wall.
But McIlroy took the safer route and punched out sideways to the fairway, from where he almost holed out from 120 yards, before tapping in for par.
The playoff was halted for several minutes after Gagli’s tee shot struck the head of a spectator who required medical assistance.
Perhaps distracted, the Italian subsequently hit his second shot into a greenside pond.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)