Ireland’s Simon Thornton saw his dream of glory come up one shot short when he was pipped for the Allianz Golf Open Grand Toulouse in south west France on the European Challenge Tour by England’s Sam Little.
The good news is that the €17,600 he picked up for second place moved him from 25th place to 12th on the Rankings with €61,996 and he now has an excellent chance of regaining his card by finishing in the top 20 at the end of the season.
While a handful of players were in contention at the start of the final round, it quickly became a two horse race between Little and Thornton, the 34 year old Irishman looking for his first Challenge Tour triumph.
Into the back nine, it looked like that eventuality might be about to become true until the 13th hole turned the contest on its head.
One shot clear, Thornton found the greenside bunker from where he could do no better than bogey five at the same time as Little found the centre of the green with a six iron and drained the resulting 20 footer for a birdie three.
From one behind to one in front, Little seized the advantage and when he holed from 12 feet at the 15th for a birdie two, he was two clear with three to play. He allowed Thornton a chink of light with a bogey six at the 17th, but a par three at the last was good enough for victory.
“It would have been nice to go one better and get the win today but it just wasn’t to be but I’m pleased with the move I’ve made in the rankings,” said the Irishman. “I played okay today and I thought I might have a chance but I just didn’t putt as well as I had done earlier in the week.”
Seven days ago, 36-year old Londoner Little showed his credentials with a stunning win in the M2M Russian Challenge Cup in Moscow and he was on the title trail once again at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh, a closing 68 giving him a 16 under par total of 268 and a one shot victory over Thornton who carded a 69 for 269.
Having been 43rd in the Rankings two weeks ago and well outside the top 20 who automatically win a card for The 2012 European Tour, the back-to-back triumphs have propelled Little to second place, now only a mere €12,732 behind leader, fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.
“This year has been hard for me, not being on The European Tour where I played for six years between 2005 and 2010,” said Little, who picked up a cheque for €25,600 for his latest triumph.
“Winning my card back was always the goal and now I have that secured, I really want to try and win the Rankings outright. I will take a week off next week to spend some time with the family but then it will be back in action and a big push over the final three tournaments of the year.
“But this is really great. I was tired after Moscow and I did give some consideration to pulling out of the tournament but I had good feelings after the win in Russia and I thought it was best to come here to France and try to feed off them.
“I didn’t have the best start to the final round but I chipped in for birdie at the fourth and that got me going and it needless to say I am totally delighted to be standing here with the trophy again.”
Third place was shared between Englishman Matthew Baldwin and Frenchman Julien Quesne who closed with 69 and 68 respectively for a 14 under par total of 270.
Just as with Little and Thornton, they also made significant strides up the Rankings; Baldwin moving from 29th to 22nd place while Quesne moved from 35th to 26th.
Colm MOriarty is 61st with €24,740 having missed the cut in four of his last five events. The Glasson man needs to play well in the last three regular events of the year to make the top 45 in the rankings who contest the season ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in southern Italy from November 2-5.