Australian Andre Stolz secured his second victory of the season on OneAsia when he triumphed in the US$1million Thailand Open after an enthralling head to head battle with Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng.
Stolz, who won the season opening US$1million Indonesia PGA Championship in March, fired a final round nine-under-par 63 to beat Prayad by two shots at Suwan Golf and Country Club.
The Australian had started the day three behind overnight leader Prayad but stormed through with nine birdies including six on the front side. He finished with a four-round aggregate of 22-under-par 266.
Prayad, bidding to become only the third Thai to win his national Open, closed with a 68. It was also an impressive round made up of five birdies with the only blemish being a bogey on par-five 18th, where he found water with his third.
“I hit a lot of great shots early on and obviously Prayad and I were battling each other – it was great fun. I knew I had to get a fast start and he comes out making birdies as well. The heat knocked me about and I battled the last four or five holes and hit a lot of horrible shots,” said Stolz.
The US$180,000 winners’ cheque allowed him to overtake Korean Kim Kyung-tae at the top of the OneAsia Order of Merit. He has now earned US$433,125 from six events.
The two combatants were tied on 21 under par after 14 holes but a brilliant 30 foot right to left birdie putt on 15 by Stolz proved to be crucial. Prayad just missed a shorter birdie putt.
The 45-year-old Thai had a golden opportunity to draw level on 17 but his eight foot birdie putt just missed.
“I have a motto which I tell my kids – ‘You have got to do what is required’. And that was in my mind today. When I walked off the first green today I knew it was going to be a shoot-out. You get days that are crazy like that. The way I am playing at the moment I feel I can win every event I play. I have only played badly on about five days in the last year. I changed back to the short putter (from the long one) after the Nanshan China Masters in June,” added Stolz.
The victory is the continuation of a remarkable comeback story for Stolz. He came out of retirement just two and a half years ago. In 2005 a nagging wrist injury caused by wear and tear forced him to stop playing for nearly three years. He was one of his country’s finest players having claimed a title each on the US PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour, and Japan Tour plus four victories times on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
This week marked the second time Prayad has finished runner-up in his national Open. The first time came in 2004 when his famous compatriot Boonchu Ruangkit took top spot. Boonchu also won the title in 1992 while the other Thai to won was Suthep Meesawat, Prom’s father, in 1991.
“Today I was hoping to shoot five or six under to win the trophy but Stolz is too good. If you ask me whether I feel disappointed or not, I think I did my best. I played with him the first two days and he did not putt so well like he did today. The turning point was hole seven where I missed a one footer. He did everything perfectly,” said Prayad, who won US$102,000.
The Thai star is a six-time winner on the Asian Tour but perhaps his finest achievement was winning three times in Japan in 2008.
Korean’s Choi Jin-ho and Australian Brent McCullough tied for third on 17 under par.
Choi fired a 69 and McCullough a 66.
Japan’s Tomokazu Yoshinaga took sole possession of fifth place with a 68 to finish a stroke further back.
Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, winner of the Indonesia Open presented by Enjoy Jakarta in July, shot a 67 to finish on 11 under.
His countryman Thongchai Jaidee returned a 73 to end on minus seven.
The next event on OneAsia is Kolon Korea Open to be played at Woo Jeong Hills Country Clun from October 6 to 9.
Completed final round scores:
266 Andre Stolz (AUS) 69 70 64 63
268 Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 70 67 63 68
271 Brent McCullough (AUS) 73 65 67 66, Choi Jin-ho (KOR) 68 67 67 69
272 Tomokazu Yoshinaga (JPN) 72 67 65 68
273 Jamie Arnold (AUS) 69 69 69 66
274 Kim Meen-whee (KOR) 69 72 67 66, Kim Woo-hyun (KOR) 73 68 64 69, Wu Ashun (CHN) 69 67 67 71
275 John Huh (USA) 70 68 70 67, Kim Do-hoon (KOR) 74 66 68 67, Prom Meesawat (THA) 69 69 69 68, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 68 67 71 69, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (THA) 68 69 68 70
276 Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA) 69 73 71 63, Udorn Duangdecha (THA) 72 68 68 68, Peter O’Malley (AUS) 71 70 65 70
277 Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 69 68 73 67, Matthew Griffin (AUS) 70 70 70 67, Park Eun-shin (KOR) 72 69 69 67, Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 68 69 70 70
279 Nicholas Fung (MAS) 67 74 73 65, Jay Bayron (PHI) 67 75 68 69
281 Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69 69 70 73