Fabrizio Zanotti triumphed in the first four-man play-off in BMW International Open history to win his first European Tour title in the most dramatic fashion today.
Zanotti, Henrik Stenson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Gregory Havret were all in with a shout of lifting the title after they could not be separated on 19 under par after the final round.
It took until the fifth extra hole for Zanotti to clinch it, with Havret and Cabrera-Bello bowing out on the second and fourth extra holes respectively.
It means that Zanotti is now the first golfer from Paraguay to win on the European Tour and improves his previous best finishes of runner-up in the 2009 Open de Espana, 2010 KLM Open and 2012 Irish Open.
Shane Lowry finished best of the Irish earlier as he carded a five under 67 today to finish up on 16 under par.
Delighted to have secured my spot at @The_Open today. Was tight but glad to say I'm going to Royal Liverpool.— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) June 29, 2014
Michael Hoey ended one shot further back on 15 under after a three under 69 today, while Damien McGrane shot a two under 70 to end the day on seven under par.
Cabrera-Bello would have been the favourite in many eyes going into the titanic play-off tussle after notching an eagle and a birdie on the 17th and 18th holes already on Sunday.
But Zanotti was the only player out of the four leaders to avoid carding a bogey in the fourth round and he maintained that statistic when it mattered most.
“I have really been playing very well in the last few weeks so I knew that if I had a good round I would have a good chance,” he told Sky Sports News.
“I have been working a lot and trying to bring up my confidence to get to this moment and finally I am here.”
World number two Stenson had looked to be in control on the first extra hole, with a birdie in sight, but he missed to keep all four men in the hunt.
If the Swede was stewing over that opportunity as he walked back to the 18th tee he did not show it, finding an unlikely birdie to once again put the pressure on his rivals. Frenchman Havret became the first casualty, but the other two men rose to the challenge.
Stenson, who won the BMW International via a play-off in 2006, looked like he knew exactly what was required to win on the third extra hole, putting himself in position to make an eagle. But he just missed his putt and all three men birdied as rain started lashing down.
The start in Cologne had been brought forward due to forecasts for storms and there were fears it might interrupt the thrilling climax at one point.
Cabrera-Bello finally cracked on the fourth extra hole, finding the lake to bow out, while this time it was Zanotti’s turn to wobble and miss a birdie opportunity after Stenson pitched to within a few feet of the pin from a difficult position.
Back on the 18th, Stenson followed Cabrera-Bello into the water while Zanotti fell short of the green but, crucially, managed to stay dry.
Stenson finally conceded after he was unable to make his shot from bunker fall to prompt celebrations from Zanotti.
Englishman Simon Dyson fell just short of getting involved in the exciting finale as he finished on 18 under par overall.
Dyson carded seven birdies in a fine fourth round, but was made to rue a bogey on the 12th hole that meant the play-off was agonisingly out of reach.
He was joined by Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who continued his fine form over the weekend with five birdies in a blemish-free final round.
Overnight leader Pablo Larrazabal slipped off the pace, dropping his first shots of the weekend with two bogeys on the ninth and 14th holes, as he fell two shots behind the four-strong leading pack.