Paul Casey, the pre-tournament favourite who all but ruled himself out of contention after two rounds, overturned a five-shot deficit to claim his fifth European Tour title in the Volvo China Open yesterday.
The Ryder Cup player birdied the first hole of a play-off with his fellow Englishman Oliver Wilson to claim the £126,000 first prize at Shenzhen Golf Club.
Casey, who won a play-off to win the TCL Classic in China in March, set the clubhouse target on 13 under par after a superb closing 65, but thought his missed birdie putt on the 18th would prove costly.
That looked like being the case when Wilson birdied four holes in a row from the 12th to lead by one with just two holes to play. But the 25-year-old from Mansfield had a bogey at the 17th as he went for the birdie he thought he needed, and also failed to birdie the par-five 18th after running just through the green with his approach.
The players returned to the 18th for sudden death and Casey took two putts from 25 feet for a birdie after Wilson stumbled from one greenside bunker into another to record a bogey six.
"I'm very happy. I feel I've accomplished what I came here to do but it wasn't easy," said Casey, who felt his chance of victory had gone after trailing by eight shots at halfway.
"The game improved as the week went on and today was a really solid round of golf. I gave myself lots of chances but I was very fortunate to get that chance at the end to go into a play-off."
Casey was five shots behind the overnight leader, Ross Fisher, but the world No 61 - the highest-ranked player in the field - wiped out that deficit with four birdies in his first eight holes, and briefly led by two when he picked up further shots on the 11th and 12th.
The veteran Barry Lane was the first to catch him when he chipped in for birdie on the 14th, but when the 45-year-old duffed his chip on the 15th for a double-bogey, Wilson took over the challenge only to stumble over the closing stretch.
Lane had birdies at 17 and 18 to claim outright third place ahead of Fisher and the Thai Chawalit Plaphol. Peter Lawrie, of Ireland, was sixth after a closing 69.
Casey's victory will be a major boost to his goal of finishing the year inside the world's top 50 to qualify for next year's major championships.
"I didn't know where I was in the rankings before this week but I'm sure I will be fully aware of where I am until the end of the year," said the 28-year-old, who will play in the Hong Kong Open and Australian Masters over the next fortnight. "I'm really looking forward to a fun 2006 season."
For Wilson - who was within seconds of being penalised a shot for slow play along with his playing partner, Fisher - it was another near miss after several top 10 finishes in his rookie season, but the former Walker Cup winner remains very positive about his future in the game. "My time is going to come soon," he said. "I've only been on tour for about a year. There's plenty of time and, hopefully, it will be soon. I actually played awful today and to be in this position when not everything was going right is good."