Thornton wins Najeti Hotels Open in playoff, edging Van der Walt for title

Simon Thornton at the Najeti Hotels Open
Getty Images
Simon Thornton won the Najeti Hotels Open on Sunday after finishing 11th last year.
Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, June 16, 2013 | 4:03 p.m.

SAINT-OMER, France -- Simon Thornton of Ireland beat Tjaart Van der Walt on the first hole of a playoff at the Najeti Hotels Open to win his first European Tour title Sunday. 

Both players shot 1-under 70 in the final round, each parring the last six holes to finish at 5-under 279. In the playoff, Van der Walt of South Africa bogeyed No. 18 while Thornton made a short par putt to win the title. 

Seve Benson of England shot 70 to finish third, one stroke back. Englishman Robert Dinwiddie was fourth after shooting 70 to total 282 -- one stroke clear of compatriot Chris Lloyd and Sweden's Pelle Edberg. 

"I've been working hard on my short game for a couple of years now so I'm delighted," Thornton said. "I changed my putter and my putting technique last week too, so it all came together this week." 

Thornton tied for 11th at this tournament last year. His only other top-10 finish on the European Tour was finishing ninth at the BMW International Open in Munich in 2010. 

The tearful Irishman dedicated the victory to his deceased father. 

"It's so big for me," Thornton said. "On Father's Day, too. He passed away three years ago and it still hurts. But they are happy tears today. This is dedicated to him." 

Thornton, Van der Walt and Frenchman Baptiste Chapellan went into the final round with a share of the lead. But Chapellan fell out of contention after making six bogeys in a 77. 

Van der Walt and Thornton swapped the lead on the front nine before Benson joined the hunt for the title on the back nine. 

Thornton birdied the 10th to move one stroke clear of Van der Walt. But the South African rallied by picking up a shot on the 12th. 

Benson hit two straight birdies to draw level atop the leaderboard but faded when he bogeyed the 16th. 

"It's really disappointing to get so close and not finish it off," said Van der Walt, the runner-up at the Africa Open last year. 

Van der Walt led Thursday and shared the lead in the last three rounds.