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Tapio Pulkkanen wins thriller in Kazakhstan

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Tapio Pulkkanen fought hard to claim his maiden European Challenge Tour title by overcoming Chase Koepka in a three-hole play-off at the Kazakhstan Open. The Finn started the day one shot behind overnight leader Erik van Rooyen but managed to overtake his playing partner after three birdies over the front nine at Nurtau Golf Club.

The big-hitting 27 year old continued to make light work of the par fives at the Almaty course, adding three further gains over the par-five 10th, 13th and 17th to sign for a closing round of 68 and a 17 under par total.

Already safe in the clubhouse on 17 under par was American Koepka after his own superb score of 66, leading to a play-off in Kazakhstan – just the second in the event’s 12-year history.

Both players teed it up again on the 18th and both had birdie chances after finding the green on the par-four hole. Koepka shaved the cup with his effort from 25 feet, while Pulkkanen saw his effort slide by from 12 feet.

Each competitor failed to reach the green during their second attempt at the 18th, but both Koepka and Pulkkanen got up and down from the fringe with ease to take the tournament to a third extra hole.

At the third time of asking on the 18th, Koepka came unstuck hitting the trees to fall short of the green with his second shot – by contrast Pulkkanen found the heart of the green to set up a simple two-putt for par.

With Koepka unable to convert a 20-foot putt for par, Pulkkanen was afforded the luxury of tapping in from one foot for his first Challenge Tour triumph.

Having finished as a runner-up on two previous occasions this season, Pulkkanen was delighted to have gotten one over the line.

“I am feeling unreal right now,” he said. “It was really hard to remain focussed during the final two days as I just kept thinking about the future and what was at stake.

“It is an unbelievable feeling to have won one of the biggest events on the Challenge Tour. I just tried to treat each day as a new one and I managed to play one hundred per cent each time.

“I think I was in control today. I made a couple of bogeys but I was playing really well and it was really good to make birdie on 17 and force a play-off against Chase – I still can’t believe that the play-off went my way.

“This result is good enough for the European Tour, and I am really glad to have been able to have achieved that here – it is an awesome feeling to know I will be on the European Tour for next season.”

With victory in Kazakhstan Pulkkanen overtakes Aaron Rai to become the new leader on the Road to Oman after reaching 143,997 points.

Also rising up the Rankings is Koepka, whose runner up finish takes him to fourth place with 111,491 points.

Final scores:

271 T Pulkkanen (Fin) 67 70 66 68, C Koepka (USA) 69 69 67 66,

272 T Murray (Eng) 66 70 70 66,

273 E Van Rooyen (RSA) 68 66 68 71,

274 N Von Dellingshausen (Ger) 70 65 70 69,

275 M Delpodio (Ita) 71 68 69 67, M Kinhult (Swe) 68 72 66 69, M Orrin (Eng) 69 67 68 71, L Gagli (Ita) 67 70 70 68,

277 R Enoch (Wal) 69 67 73 68, O Farr (Wal) 70 69 71 67, P Tarver-Jones (Eng) 70 72 69 66, R McEvoy (Eng) 71 66 72 68, S Brown (Eng) 70 70 68 69,

279 T Tree (Eng) 73 68 67 71, E Goya (Arg) 68 65 75 71, T Linard (Fra) 71 67 70 71, N Geyger (Chi) 70 71 66 72, N Johansson (Swe) 72 70 71 66, M Fenasse (Fra) 73 68 69 69, J Dantorp (Swe) 70 68 70 71,

280 M Hoey (Nir) 74 68 66 72, R Saxton (Ned) 67 67 71 75, S Henry (Sco) 67 67 74 72, N Cullen (Aus) 71 66 73 70, R Evans (Eng) 72 67 65 76,

281 G Forrest (Sco) 67 71 70 73, J Guerrier (Fra) 68 73 69 71, M Baldwin (Eng) 70 69 68 74,

282 M Nixon (Eng) 71 70 69 72, A Saddier (Fra) 69 72 69 72, M Lundberg (Swe) 68 65 74 75, S Tiley (Eng) 68 69 73 72,

283 A Meronk (Pol) 72 67 69 75, S Fernandez (Esp) 67 75 70 71, C Blomstrand (Swe) 72 70 69 72, R Davies (Wal) 71 70 68 74, C Mivis (Bel) 73 69 70 71, M Trappel (Aut) 73 68 68 74, J McLeary (Sco) 68 72 70 73,

284 B Hafthorsson (Isl) 72 69 71 72, F Laporta (Ita) 66 71 70 77, G Boyd (Eng) 68 74 69 73, M Schwab (Aut) 69 71 71 73, N Lindstrom (Swe) 68 68 72 76,

285 C Griffiths (Eng) 71 70 70 74, E Dubois (Fra) 69 70 71 75, D Van Driel (Ned) 68 69 76 72, M Schneider (Ger) 70 70 74 71,

286 W Besseling (Ned) 69 71 75 71, F Maccario (Ita) 73 67 74 72, G Moynihan (Irl) 72 68 71 75, O Lengden (Swe) 68 72 74 72, A Pavan (Ita) 71 68 74 73, M Lafeber (Ned) 69 71 69 77,

287 C Sordet (Fra) 68 74 70 75, J Hansen (Den) 69 71 74 73, B Eccles (Aus) 72 70 73 72,

288 J Senior (Eng) 68 69 73 78, J Kruyswijk (RSA) 71 71 72 74, B Neil (Sco) 74 67 70 77, J Doherty (Sco) 70 71 72 75,

290 D Foos (Ger) 70 71 73 76, J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 72 65 75 78,

292 S Hutsby (Eng) 69 72 77 74,

304 B Virto (Esp) 71 71 79 83