SEBASTIAN Soderberg came through a five-man play-off featuring World No. 2 Rory McIlroy to win his first European Tour title at the Omega European Masters.
The 28-year-old Swede started the day four shots off the lead and remained there at the turn before he made five birdies in a row to surge to the top of the leaderboard in the mountains at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
A three-putt on the 17th then dropped him into the play-off at 14-under par with playing partners McIlroy and Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli.
They were joined by Argentinian Andres Romero – who made three late birdies playing in the last group – and Finland’s rookie Kalle Samooja as the Omega European Masters went to extra holes for the sixth time in seven years.
Soderberg holed a 10-footer for birdie on the first trip back up the last and, with McIlroy and Samooja missing from close range after Gagli made bogey, the trophy was heading home with the man from Gothenburg.
Soderberg – whose name translates literally as South Mountain – was elated to finally earn his maiden European Tour win in Crans Montana, which is some 5,000 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps.
“I’m pretty thrilled right now, hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Soderberg, who ironically is attached to Thailand’s Black Mountain Golf Club, along with fellow Swedes Rikard Karlberg, Pelle Edberg and Johan Edfors.
“I felt like I was pressing down my emotions all day just to try to focus. It’s unbelievable. I’ve dreamed of winning on the European Tour, even better doing it this way,” Sebastian added.
“I was more nervous in the beginning than I was towards the back nine. Got on a good run and the ball kept going in.
“Just playing with Rory – there are so many people around. Playing with a guy like that adds heat to it right away.
“I proved to myself that I can play out here. I didn’t really know that I was ready to win.
“I had a terrible start to the season and I felt like I was just trying to make my way into the top 110 and keep my card for next year. It’s just a surreal way to do it.
“I was just trying to take one shot at a time and my brother (Jesper) told me most likely my card was secured when we’d finished, which was nice. I had nothing to lose at all and it’s going to change a lot going forward.”
McIlroy had said at the start of the week that if he wanted one shot back in his career it would be the 18th at Crans-sur-Sierre in 2008 when he missed a putt to win on the 18th and then lost a play-off to Jean-François Lucquin.
“Too many mistakes,” McIlroy admitted. “I think I made 13 bogeys during the week. I made enough birdies, but I just didn’t have it over the weekend.”
Last week’s FedEx Cup winner added: “I obviously made a good run over the back nine today. It’s been another solid week, coming back across the Atlantic. Now I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off.
“This is my seventh event in eight weeks, I’ve played a lot of golf. Playing so much, little mental errors can creep in here and there.”
“The sloppy finish yesterday probably cost me, but I fought back today and did my best. It just wasn’t meant to be.
“I’ll put the clubs away for a few days, rest, recover and reflect on what has been a pretty good season so far, and try to get myself back up for (the BMW PGA Championship at) Wentworth,” McIlroy added.
Victory for Soderberg came in his 50th European Tour event after he secured a top-five on home soil at last week’s Scandinavian Invitation, and takes him inside the top 50 on the Race to Dubai.
It was a thrilling finish to an enthralling day as all the main contenders came to life in the closing stages to take the event to a record-equalling 13th play-off in its history.