Turin, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Hennie Otto fired a final-round, 4-under 68 and he held off David Howell and Stephen Gallacher on Sunday to earn a 2- shot victory at the Italian Open.
Otto, who also won this event back in 2008, finished the week at 20-under-par 268 to capture his third victory on the European Tour. This was just Otto's second event since having two back operations in the summer.
"I was playing well before the injury, but it is a surprise to win so soon," Otto said. "Golf is not perfect and to come back after the operations and win in my second week, I will take that any day. I don't know what it is about Italy -- sometimes some golf courses just suit your eye and that was the case again for me this week. It just felt good this week and I was comfortable on this course."
Howell surged up the leaderboard with a 9-under 63, but it was not quite enough as he settled for second place at 18-under 270 at Circolo Golf Torino.
Stephen Gallacher, who needed either a first- or second-place finish in order to automatically qualify for the European Ryder Cup team, exploded out of the gate to get within striking distance, but a stretch of pars to end his round left him one shot back of second place. Gallacher shot a 65 to end in third at minus-17 and he will now have to rely on a captains pick from Paul McGinley in order to play in the Ryder Cup.
"It was a tall, order but I am proud of myself the way I have played," said Gallacher. "I'm delighted with 17-under, it looks just a little short, but there is nothing I can do. When it comes down to someone else's opinion ... I wanted to qualify myself just to take that away. There are four or five guys that are worthy so it's just what Paul sees."
Joost Luiten also went low with a 7-under 65 and he finished tied for fourth at 16-under 272. He was joined there by Richie Ramsay (70), who was in the final pairing with Otto.
Bernd Wiesberger, the first-round co-leader with 2006 champion Francesco Molinari, shot an even-par 72 on Sunday to finish well off the pace at 13- under. Molinari also shot 72 to finish tied for 18th at 9-under 279.
Entering the day with a 2-shot lead, Otto quickly made it a 3-shot advantage with a birdie on the par-5 first. In the meantime, Gallacher was vaulting up the leaderboard with four birdies in his first five holes to jump into a tie for second with Ramsay at minus-14.
Ramsay dropped a shot at the fifth to put Gallacher alone in second, and Gallacher poured in back-to-back birdies on seven and eight, making it six birdies in his first eight holes. Those gains got Gallacher to within one shot of Otto.
Following five straight pars, Otto made another birdie on No. 7 to regain a 2- shot lead at minus-18.
Howell began to surge in the middle part of his round as well. After an eagle at the first, he made six birdies in seven holes from seven to take over second place at 17-under.
Gallacher got back even with Howell with a birdie on the 12th and they were both just one shot behind Otto. Another gain at No. 12 put Otto two shots ahead at minus-19, but Howell was not letting him go so easily as he sank a birdie putt of his own shortly after to get back within one.
Unfortunately for Gallacher, he could not find that birdie stroke down the stretch as he closed out his final round with six straight pars to end three shots back of Otto and one shot out of that coveted second-place spot.
Otto all but sealed the deal with a big birdie putt on 15 and Howell never got closer than two shots again. Both Otto and Howell closed with three straight pars, handing Otto the title.
NOTES: If Gallacher were to have finished second he would have needed to be tied with no more than one other person in order to make the Ryder Cup team, which was poised to happen until Howell took second ... Gallacher would have supplanted Graeme McDowell as the last person to clinch an automatic bid on team Europe ... Otto earned 250,000 euros with the victory ... The European Tour heads to Switzerland next week for the Omega European Masters, where Thomas Bjorn beat Craig Lee in a playoff last year.
08/31 14:23:20 ET