Nitithorn claims crown in thrilling conclusion
Phachara shares 2nd place in Singapore
published : 15 Aug 2022 at 08:18
newspaper section: Sports
Singapore: Nitithorn Thippong triumphed in the inaugural International Series Singapore yesterday after one of the most dramatic finishes seen on the Asian Tour.
After holing a brilliant pressure-packed 15-foot par saving putt on the par-five 18th to take the clubhouse lead on 16 under, Nitithorn, playing in the penultimate group, then had to wait and see if anyone in the last group -- consisting of Malaysian Gavin Green, Taiwan's Chan Shih-chang and Thai compatriot Phachara Khongwatmai -- could catch him.
It proved to be a much longer wait then expected as the last group were forced off the 18th hole for 40 minutes because of lightning, with Chan on 16 under and Green one back.
When the action resumed Chan, who just before the weather delay had found water with his tee shot, made a double bogey while Green narrowly missed a 15-foot birdie putt.
"This is fantastic, just fantastic," said the 25-year-old Nitithorn, who earned a lucrative cheque for US$270,000.
"I cannot describe my feelings right now. I have practiced so hard for this. I hit lot of greens this week and had a lot of birdie putts. I think my mentality was great. I did not think about the score, just the process."
He closed with a bogey-free three-under-par 69 to beat Green, Phachara and Richard T Lee from Canada by one shot. Green and Phachara both fired 71s, while Lee returned a 67.
Nitithorn won for the first time on the Asian Tour in March at The DGC Open and is the second player this season to win twice on Tour along with American Sihwan Kim.
He added: "It has just been a dream season so far, and to win an International Series event is unbelievable."
Nitithorn had started the day one shot behind overnight leaders Green, the 2017 Asian Tour No.1, and Phachara. However, Green got off to the worst possible start and was four over after four, while Phachara also failed to find his A game.
"I got off to a horrendous start, and kind of just clicked the reset button and just kept going," said Green.
"Because, with this course, a lot of things can happen. And especially on the last hole, as you saw, there was so much drama down the last. It was anybody's game, and anybody could have done something. A lot of things were going on, but I just kind of stayed in the moment really. I just tried, I tried very, very hard just to keep moving along and just stay as patient as possible."
Lee's 67 came after he dropped a shot on the fourth but then rallied with six birdies.
He said: "I have been struggling with my putting but I changed my putter and grip this week. I have gone to a reverse grip, and it worked out pretty well. I think I have averaged about 29 putts this week. I am always a good ball striker, bottom line is you have got to hole the putts."
American star Patrick Reed closed with his best round of the week, a 67, which was helped by a hole-in-one on the par-three 14th. He finished on eight under in a tie for 31st.
Amateur James Leow, Singapore's rising young star, fired a 68 to also finish on eight under. He ended as the leading local player ahead of Hiroshi Tai, also an amateur, who shot 73.