Spanish star Sergio Garcia survived a shaky finish to claim the inaugural Ho Tram Open title, winning a four-way playoff against India’s Himmet Rai, Thai stalwart Thaworn Wiratchant and overnight leader Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan.
Garcia looked to be on his way to claiming a convincing win in the US$1.5 million Asian Tour showpiece at The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, after six birdies on the front nine gave him a three-shot lead over Lin. However, the Spaniard wobbled on the home stretch and a poor approach at the 17th hole led to a double bogey which opened the door for the chasing pack.
Lin and Rai had great chances to take the title outright but they three-putted 17 and 18 respectively to finish on 14-under-par, which was matched by Garcia and Wiratchant.
In the sudden-death decider played at the tough par-four 18th hole, Garcia hit a huge drive but a poor approach left him more than 30 feet from the pin while Wiratchant and Rai played superb shots which left them with putts of about 10 and five feet respectively.
Garcia hit a sublimely-judged putt which rolled into the centre of the cup for birdie, which was matched by Rai who stroked his putt in confidently after Wiratchant missed. Lin could only manage par after hitting a great recovery shot from the sand dunes on the right.
Garcia and Rai returned to the 18th tee and the Spaniard found a fairway bunker off the tee while Rai hit a wild drive that wound up in the bushes on the left. The Indian player managed to somehow punch his ball out onto the fairway and hit a superb third shot which left him about 15 feet for par. Garcia meanwhile found the putting surface from the sand but missed from 20 feet, leaving a tap-in par. After Rai missed his par save, Garcia knocked his ball in to claim his first title since the Qatar Masters in January 2014.
“It was a strange day. I felt like I was so much under control, the way I played the front nine. I hit a bad tee shot on 10 but I still managed to get it back together and had some chances which I didn’t take. Then I hit that poor shot on 17 – the only place I could never hit is left and I just made a terrible swing,” said Garcia
“I then got lucky. When you hit the putt like the one I had (in the playoff), 30 to 35 feet, even if you hit a great putt, you need to get lucky to make it. I’m very happy as I haven’t won in a while and this win is going to help me build up a little more confidence,” added the World No 12, who pocked a cheque of US$270,000 for the win.
Rai, whose lone Asian Tour victory came in 2011, charged into contention with a birdie, birdie, eagle run from the 14th hole but rued the three-putt bogey on 18 in regulation play. However, the 28-year-old Indian took comfort that his joint runner-up cheque of US$111,500 secured his tour card for next season after starting the week in 116th place on the Order of Merit.
“I enjoyed it because I played really good. On the second play-off hole, I just rushed it. I wasn’t feeling comfortable with my grip and I should have backed off. I was a little bit disappointed,” said Rai.
“I was showing signs of improvement this year. The game was there. It was about putting it together and I’m so glad I did it this week. Thank God, it has all worked out and I have an Asian Tour card for next year. It was looking very bleak.”
Malaysia’s in-form Nicholas Fung carded a solid 69 to finish in joint 12th position on eight-under-par, while rookie pro Gavin Green was 52nd on three-over-par.
270 – Sergio GARCIA (ESP) 66-68-68-68, Himmat RAI (IND) 66-69-68-67, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 64-71-68-67, LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 65-67-68-70 (Garcia wins with a par on the second play-off hole)
271 – Thomas BJORN (DEN) 69-70-68-64.
273 – Sam CYR (USA) 69-69-70-65, Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 66-71-65-71.
274 – Sunghoon KANG (KOR) 72-68-67-67.
275 – Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 68-67-72-68, Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 71-67-69-68, Paul PETERSON (USA) 66-70-68-71.
276 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 65-70-72-69, Charlie WI (KOR) 62-72-72-70.
277 – Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 75-67-70-65, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 69-71-68-69, Geoff OGILVY (AUS) 69-70-67-71.