Rory McIlroy loses out in five-man play-off as Soderberg earns maiden win in thrilling European Masters
Rory McIlroy has lost out in a five-man play-off after a thrilling finish at the European Masters.
The world number two was five under for his last seven holes on Sunday to earn a place in the play-off but a birdie for Sebastien Soderberg was enough to win on the first additional hole.
It's the Swedish player's first European Tour victory and required some impressive focus after he made a three-putt bogey on the 17th and missed a putt for victory on the 18th hole in normal play.
McIlroy's wait for his 14th European Tour victory, and his first since winning the 2016 Irish Open, goes on.
On Saturday, it had been a disappointing closing stretch, two over for the final five, that kept McIlroy behind the lead.
However, he made amends a day later, making five birdies in his final seven holes to claw himself back into contention.
It all seemed so far way on the 12th tee, McIlroy three shots behind Soderberg after playing the opening 11 holes in two over par.
Then the blistering run began with four birdies in a row, the only disappointments that neither of his makeable eagle putts at the back-to-back par fives dropped into the hole.
On the 17th tee, McIlroy was two behind Soderberg but walking off the green, the duo and Lorenzo Gagli were all among five players in a tie for the lead.
Rory was first to putt, holing from 20 feet for birdie with Gagli following him in. Soderberg had hit the best approach of all but, when he raced his downhill effort past the hole, it was a three-putt bogey and back to -14.
All three could only make par at the last, Soderberg and Gagli missing birdie putts while McIlroy made a stunning up and down from over 120 yards to save his par after driving into the threes on the right.
That meant Kalle Samooja and 54-hole leader Anders Romero has chances to win with birdie on the last. After a half-duffed approach, Samooja could only make par while, in the final group, Romero also carded a two-putt par.
That left a five man play-off with McIlroy, Samooja and McIlroy the three to set up makeable birdie putts.
Soderberg was first up and found the hole. When neither McIlroy nor Samooja could follow from closer in, the win belonged to the 28-year-old.
"Too many mistakes," McIlroy told Sky Sports. "I made 13 bogeys during the week. There were enough birdies but I didn't quite have it over the weekend. The putt lacked a bit of speed. I started it on the right line but I didn't give it enough pace.
"It's a solid week coming back over the Atlantic and I'm looking forward to a week off. This is my seventh event in eight weeks. Sometimes those sloppy mistakes and mental errors creep in."
McIlroy will be back in action later this month at the BMW PGA Championship.
He added: "I had a good battle with Francesco (Molinari) last year so I'm looking forward to it. Before then, I'll put the clubs away and reflect on what's been a pretty good year then try and get myself up for Wentworth."
At 120th in the Race to Dubai rankings, Soderberg had been facing a fight to retain his Tour card but this win gives him an exemption for the 2020 season.
Belfast Telegraph Digital