Italian Renato Paratore produced a dominate display of front running to claim his second European Tour title with a three shot victory in the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House.
The 23 year old converted his one stroke overnight advantage with a two under par final round of 69 to finish on 18 under par, with Denmark’s 19 year old Rasmus Højgaard runner up on 15 under.
It meant Paratore claimed the spoils this time after Højgaard had defeated him in a play-off in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in December at the start of the 2020 season.
The tournament marked the full resumption of the European Tour campaign behind closed doors following a four month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Paratore showed few signs of rust, going bogey free for the first three rounds. He extended that remarkable streak to 62 holes following birdies on the fourth and seventh holes, before dropping two shots in three holes on the ninth and 11th, with a birdie on the tenth sandwiched in between.
None of the chasing pack could apply any pressure on him though and he picked up a further birdie on the 17th hole to restore his three shot advantage and stroll to his second European Tour win, following the 2017 Nordea Masters. In doing so he became the second Italian winner of the British Masters following Baldovino Dassu in 1976.
Paratore was not the only winner at the first event of the UK Swing, with the European Tour’s #GolfForGood initiative raising more than £135,000 for the event’s Official Charity the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation.
Højgaard continued his impressive start to life on the European Tour, closing with a round of 70 to take second place while South African Justin Harding finished third on 14 under par after a 72.
English trio Andy Sullivan (67), Robert Rock (69) and Dale Whitnell (71) shared fourth on 13 under.
Renato Paratore: “I am really happy. I played very solid and I didn’t expect to come back and win my second title after the lockdown. I have worked really hard over the last year and I am really happy to win again.
“I never thought about it today because if I start to think about it, I am going to make a bogey. So, I just told myself to play good and try to win the tournament. It was really windy and really difficult, and when I made the first bogey, I made a really good birdie after to stay in the tournament.
“Both of my wins have been tough fought on my part. In Sweden, the last day was rainy and windy, so both were tough conditions but I think that helped me because there weren’t low scores, and I was playing really good, so I was able to focus myself to stay in the lead.
“For me the European Tour have done a really great job, it is not easy to come back to tournaments with this situation, and they have been good with the restrictions at the golf course and the hotel. It is not easy because you have to do golf club-hotel, hotel-golf club but we have to do this for the benefit of the Tour and to play more events.
Rasmus Højgaard: “It was a lot tougher, the wind really picked up and it was hard to control the flight sometimes, but I put in a good fight out there and happy to get around in one under.
“The first three rounds, I would not say it was easy but it was much easier to control and get yourself in a good position. You had short irons for a lot of the holes and it was just tough this round. I struggled a bit at the start, couldn’t really get anything going.”
Lee Westwood: “The Tour and Close House have done an amazing job. When we turned up on Monday, I was surprised how thorough everything was. I knew we were going to be on lockdown but the testing protocol we have all been through have been a success. I don’t think anybody has tested positive so hopefully they will carry on next week.