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England's Sam Walker became the first multiple winner of the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts as he beat Simon Wakefield in the third play-off hole after heavy overnight rain forced the tournament to be reduced to 54 holes. Despite the tireless efforts of the greenkeeping staff at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club, the final round of the tournament had to be abandoned with Simon Wakefield and Sam Walker tied for the lead at the top of the leaderboard.
They proceeded to play three tense play-off holes at the 18th, where, after carding two safe pars each in the first two attempts, Wakefield's third drive found the rough on the right hand side of the fairway.
Walker split the fairway with his drive and after Wakefield's second shot rolled off the side of the green and into the semi-rough, Walker capitalised by striking a gap wedge which finished seven feet past the pin.
Wakefield failed in his attempt to hole out with his chip, leaving Walker to roll a perfectly-weighted downhill birdie putt into the cup to claim the title for the second time in his career, having won the inaugural tournament in 2006.
"I actually thought I'd missed it," said Walker, referring to his winning putt. "I actually thought it would stay up but thankfully it fell in.
"It's unlucky for Simon because he's played well all week. He played fantastically yesterday and my work was cut out. It's a shame but you have to have a winner and I'm delighted to have won."
Now a three time winner on the Challenge Tour, Walker put his cool demeanour in the testing circumstances down to the work he did on the range prior to the play-off, as he hit wedge after wedge in preparation for what was ultimately a decisive approach on the final play-off hole.
"I just stood on the range and was told I had an hour," said the Birmingham man, who moved from 134th to sixth in the Challenge Tour Rankings thanks to the â‚¬35,200 winner's prize. "I hit the club I thought I was going to hit into the last (52 degree wedge) and got a feel for it.
"I think it was the best thing I could do really. I hit three good shots into the last so I think it paid off. I more or less played the play-off hole on the range.
"It's a thing I've been taught to do since college, just to relax myself. I just had to keep my head down then and focus on certain things, which I did."
Wakefield, meanwhile, had turned down an invitation to the BMW International Open on The European Tour to play in Aviemore and he felt his decision was justified, despite the disappointment of not being able to play the final round before losing the play-off.
"It would have been nice to go and play the final round but I was happy to play a play-off this afternoon," said the 38 year old, who is now third in the Challenge Tour Rankings. "You can't expect anything more when the weather is like that.
"The guys did a tremendous job trying to get the course back into shape. As Kevin Feeney (Tournament Director) said in the presentation, Mother Nature just beat us and sometimes you have to take a step back and accept it and move on.
"We've had a wonderful week here in Aviemore though and it'd be nice to come back. If it was ever on The European Tour schedule, it would be great. Overall it's been a great week."
Swede Magnus A Carlsson's third place finish means that he now moves to the top of the Rankings on â‚¬86,462 while England's Daniel Brooks, who finished tied fourth, moves into the top ten in seventh place.
Chris Doak also finished in tied fourth, in the process claiming the Douglas Brodie Lowe Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest Scotsman, for the second time in a row.
Results (54 holes after final day's play was cancelled):
201 S Walker (Eng) 64 67 70, S Wakefield (Eng) 69 66 66,
202 M Carlsson (Swe) 67 69 66,
203 C Doak (Sco) 70 67 66, D Brooks (Eng) 64 72 67, J Parry (Eng) 69 67 67,
204 C Lloyd (Eng) 73 62 69, M Madsen (Den) 69 70 65,
205 N Dougherty (Eng) 69 69 67, C Paisley (Eng) 71 69 65, S Lilly (Eng) 71 68 66,
206 M Tullo (Chi) 67 68 71,
207 G Lockerbie (Eng) 68 70 69, P Baker (Eng) 69 69 69, J Lima (Por) 69 68 70, S Kim (Kor) 69 71 67
Photo by: Getty Images
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