Jim Payne, who less than two years ago thought he might never play golf again after a spinal fusion operation, won the Italian Open when he shot two successive rounds of 67 to finish with a nine-under-par aggregate of 275 at Bergamo yesterday.
But before he won the title - his second success on the European Tour - Payne had to wait for more than an hour before knowing he had beaten Sweden's Patrik Sjoland by one shot and Lee Westwood, Jonathan Lomas and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez by two.
Two rounds had to be played yesterday after the bad weather on the first two days and the Lincolnshire-based Payne began the third round in joint- 22nd place with 13 other players.
After his third round 67, he moved up to joint sixth, but was still six shots behind Westwood, the 23-year-old Worksop golfer. Then, when he completed his second 67, he was still three shots off the lead.
As 26-year-old Payne reached the clubhouse, Westwood was on 12 under par, two shots clear of Sjoland, but then had a disastrous four over par eight at the 431-yard 12th hole.
Sjoland then led on 10 under par for one hole, but had a bogey five at the 14th to be level with Payne on nine under. Westwood birdied the 16th to also go to nine under.
It left both Westwood and Sjoland needing par fours at the last hole to force a play-off with Payne but both failed, Westwood having a double- bogey six and Sjoland a bogey five after both had missed the green.
"Now I have won the tournament I have a two-year exemption on the Tour and that is the best news I could possibly have had, '' Payne said. ''When I had my operation in September, 1994, I did not know if I would ever be able to play at this level again.''