Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Thai Nirun Sae-ueng ended a four-year title drought on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) after defeating local hotshot Gavin Green on the first extra hole at the PGM Maybank Championship.
Nirun and Green both staged remarkable comebacks from six and eight shots back at the start of the day to end regulation play tied on 15-under-par 273 after posting final rounds of six-under-par 66 and 64 respectively at Saujana Golf and Country Club.
While Green impressed with a flawless round that contained eight birdies to claim the clubhouse lead, it was Nirun who turned heads when he eagled the 18th to overturn a two-shot deficit and force extra-time.
The duo returned to the par-five 18th for the play-off where Nirun pipped Green with a par against a bogey to triumph at the US$54,000 event.
Thai overnight leader Atiruj Winaicharoenchai failed to convert his commanding four-shot advantage into victory after carding a 74 to finish sole third on 275, while Amir Nazrin finished one shot further back after closing with a 71.
“Winning my first ADT title in four years has restored my confidence and ambition,” said Nirun, who pocketed US$9,529 to move from 51st to 19th on the Order of Merit.
“I knew it was going to be tough to overtake Gavin, who was two shots clear at the top. For the last hole, I was just trying to finish with a flourish by aiming for a birdie.
“I hit my (second) shot to about 75 yards and tried to chip onto the green. I didn’t think it would go in! I didn’t notice it went in as the pin was behind the hill. I only realised I made the eagle when I heard the loud cheers and fellow players came to congratulate me as I approached the green.
“The eagle set me up well for the extra hole. I just focused on my game, put the ball on the fairway, and then the third shot to the green. I two-putted for the win after Gavin failed in his chip-in attempt and missed the putt.”
Having collected US$14,842 from nine starts, Nirun now has set his sights on claiming a big share of the season-ending US$160,000 Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei next month.
“The victory has opened up the opportunity for me to try sneak into the top seven (on the Order of Merit). The Taifong Open is a big money event and I can still earn my Asian Tour card if I could finish top three there,” he said.
Maybank ambassador Green was philosophical in his defeat. “I’m disappointed in the play-off but I had a good final round. I hit it great to make 17 out 18 greens. I’ve been working really hard on some stuff with the swing and I’m liking the way I’m striking it,” he said.
Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan finished tied 30th to keep himself atop the standings on US$50,278, giving him a healthy cushion over second-placed Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand (US$29,794).
With the Taifong Open offering a top prize of US$28,000, six contenders can still mathematically topple Sekito to become the ADT number one.