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Jeju Island, Korea, April 26: Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee showed why he is one of Asia’s best when he lifted his 12th Asian Tour title at the €2.1 million Ballantine’s Championship on Sunday.
Thongchai defeated Korea’s Kang Sung-hoon and Spain’s Gonzalo Fdez-Castano in a three-way play-off after the trio had ended regulation play on four-under-par 284 total at the Pinx Golf Club.
Fernandez-Castano, who posted a three-under-par 69, after being five shots off the lead coming into the final round, was the first off the tee.
The Spaniard went through the back of the green into the rough with his second shot and had to chip in to within two feet with his third shot.
Kang, who had the home crowd cheering him on, was within six feet of the pin after two strokes but missed his birdie chance, leaving Thongchai with the chance to wrap up the title after the Thai ace had earlier driven an accurate approach shot which left the ball to within three-feet of the pin.
Thongchai made no mistakes with his birdie chance and savoured the winning feeling all over again since his last victory at the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open in March.
“When we got to the play-off, I knew that I would stand a good chance as I had just finished playing that hole about 15 minutes ago. I knew the distance well and I was ready,” said Thongchai who posted a 70 in regulation play.
While he had to battle the testing conditions all week, Thongchai knew that in order to win, he made to maintain his composure and keep his nerves even after going into the final round in tied-third, four shot off the lead.
“The tournament is never finished and you never know who is going to win the tournament until the last day. I know that I can play well in all weather conditions, whether it’s in the cold, rain or wind and I just had to believe in myself that I can do it,” added Thongchai who picked up the winner’s cheque of approximately US$457,249 to lead the Asian Tour Order of Merit on US$707,857.39 now.
Fdez-Castano again had to suffer the anguish of missing out on another play-off victory in the last three weeks.
“This is my third play-off in the last three weeks and it really hurts. It's difficult, especially when you are playing against two other players in the play-off. But, I guess that's golf,” said Fdez-Castano.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat was the next best Asian Tour player, finishing in tied-eight among the elite field that included world number six, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and former Masters champion, Fred Couples who both finished in tied-52nd on 298.
Mardan seeking his third win on the Asian Tour since the 2006 Singapore Masters, reeled in three birdies in his opening four holes to signal his strong intent for the title.
He dropped a shot on the fifth but recovered with another birdie on the 10th straight after the turn. The 41-year-old Singaporean then bogeyed the 12th followed by a birdie on 14th.
All hopes of catching up with the leaders were dashed after a wrong choice of club resulted in a costly double bogey on 17th and saw the 41-year-old Singaporean drop to one-under and finish on 71 for a four-day total of 287.
“I picked the wrong club at the tee box and that shot landed over the green. I managed to chip it back on and three-putted that hole,” said Mardan.
“It’s okay. It was very tough out there again and because of the difficult conditions, I’m pleased with how I’ve played this week. Things happen for a reason and I’ll look forward to my next event in Korea again (GS Caltex Maekyung Open),” added Mardan.