Australian Sam Brazel enjoyed a life-changing victory at the season-ending UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday, sinking an eight-foot birdie on the last hole for a dramatic win.
The 37-year-old Brazel showed nerves of steel under pressure to fire a final round of two-under-par 68 and lift his maiden Asian Tour title by one stroke with an aggregate of 13-under-par 267 at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
Brazel, who earned US$330,330 and finished seventh on the final Asian Tour Order of Merit, pipped playing partner and Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello, who missed a long birdie attempt at the closing hole in the US$2 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Hong Kong Golf Association.
Andrew Dodt of Australia and England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who were in the thick of battle on a glorious Sunday afternoon, shared third place on 269 after a 68 and 66 respectively while Malaysia’s Danny Chia emerged as the top Asian in tied eighth place after a closing 67.
Tied with Cabrera Bello heading down the 18th hole which is called “The Ultimate” and rated as one of the toughest in Asia, Brazel produced a stunning six iron approach shot to set up his winning birdie. Brazel was visibly emotional as he lifted the prestigious UBS Hong Kong Open trophy which was his first major win since turning professional in 2002.
“I’m still in a little bit of a shock. There’s some seriously good names on that trophy and it’s great to be a part of it. There’s a lot of great history in this event and this venue. It feels amazing, I’m speechless. What a win. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel privilege to be playing first of all and I feel ecstatic,” said a jubilant Brazel.
The Australian began the week ranked 480th on the Official World Golf Ranking but showed his poise, especially on the back nine with a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th to 13th hole getting him back into contention following two bogeys on his outward nine.
With the title on the line, he later conceded his iron shot into the last had a touch of fortune. “It (shot on last hole) was kind of unexpected. I was trying to take it over the middle of the bunker in front of the green and play it safe.
“But I hit it a little thin and a little right but I’ll take it. The satisfying part was the putt. I’ve been working hard with my putting and it’s nice to stand there and roll one in the middle when it really counts,” said Brazel
Three dropped shots on the seventh and eighth holes put Cabrera Bello out of the lead which he has held at least a share of it since the opening day. However, brave birdies on 16 and 17 pushed him back to the top alongside Brazel but it wasn’t to be his day as he closed with a 69.
“Obviously the week if you look at it overall, it’s a great week, finishing second. Just a little disappointed today. I managed to start good again but then struggled halfway through the front nine. I battled back really hard again, same as yesterday. But then Sam just played a fantastic 18th hole,” said the Spaniard.
“Obviously I am still proud of the performance. I messed up a little obviously on seven and eight but I stayed calm and waited for my chances. I gave myself lots of opportunities. Some didn’t fall, but at the end, 16 and 17, they were two great putts that did go in. The one on 18th, almost, as well. In the end, it’s a good week. It’s just a bitter taste finishing runner-up.”
Scores after round 4 of the UBS Hong Kong Open Championship 2016 being played at the par 70, 6710 Yards Hong Kong GC course (am – denotes amateur):
267 – Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 66-66-67-68.
268 – Rafa CABRERA BELLO (ESP) 64-65-70-69.
269 – Andrew DODT (AUS) 69-67-67-66, Tommy FLEETWOOD (ENG) 66-68-67-68.
270 – David LIPSKY (USA) 66-70-66-68.
271 – Danny WILLETT (ENG) 68-66-71-66.
272 – Paul WARING (ENG) 71-68-68-65.
273 – Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 69-70-68-66, Danny CHIA (MAS) 69-66-71-67.
274 – Marcus FRASER (AUS) 71-69-68-66, Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 66-71-70-67, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 66-72-69-67, Jason SCRIVENER (AUS) 67-69-68-70.