Graeme McDowell, who led after the first round when the Open was last held at Hoylake in 2006, will return there buoyed by his first ever successful title defence following a dramatic final day on Sunday in Paris.
McDowell overturned an eight-shot deficit thanks to a brilliant closing 67 to retain the Alstom Open de France, although he also had plenty of help from American Kevin Stadler.
Stadler’s four-shot overnight lead disappeared with a front nine of 41, but he battled back well with birdies on the 14th and 16th to pull within one of McDowell, who had moved three ahead with his fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.
With McDowell then dropping his only shot on the 18th after finding heavy rough off the tee, Stadler needed to par the last to force a play-off, but missed from two feet just as McDowell left the recording area to prepare for extra holes.
“I feel very fortunate,” McDowell admitted after claiming his 10th European Tour title. “Kevin Stadler is a great, great player. I literally gave him that putt on the last green, I didn’t expect him to miss that.
“It’s not really the way you like to win, I was ready to go for the play-off, but I’ll take it and run. I really needed this victory, it’s a special one for me. It’s pretty timely, there’s a busy summer ahead and this a really good kick start to the summer.”
McDowell has deliberately played a lighter schedule this year, even missing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, to leave himself fresher for the second half of the season.
“It’s a good decision now, but I have to say myself and my team were starting to question it,” the former US Open champion added on Sky Sports 4. “But my body has probably never been in as good a shape at this point in the season coming into two major championships, the FedEx Cup play-offs and hopefully the Ryder Cup.
“I was at Hoylake a couple of weeks ago and I think it’s my type of set-up, you really have to find fairways off the tee and there are big flat greens where you can hole some putts.”
Stadler, who also missed from 18 inches for par on the fourth in his 76, said: “It’s very hard to lose the same tournament twice in the same day, but I managed to do it.
“It was tough (conditions) and I drove it terrible today. If you miss the fairway, you’re going to get punished out here. That’s just the way it is. I played great for a couple of days and had tons of chances but spent all day in the knee-deep stuff today and the score showed it.
“It was so miserable on the front nine, I was practically expecting to bogey every hole. It was virtually impossible. It was unfortunate on the last, I played a little safe second shot and I felt good over the putt, and just whiffed it unfortunately.”