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Jimenez clinches Hong Kong Open by a shot

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez claimed his fifth title of the year when he outgunned Padraig Harrington of Ireland and South African James Kingston to lift the US$800,000 Omega Hong Kong Open by one stroke after a thrilling final round today.

The cigar-chomping, pony-tailed Jimenez carded a closing four-under-par 66 to triumph against last year's champion Harrington and Kingston, who closed with matching 67s at the par-70 Hong Kong Golf Club's Composite Course.

Jimenez and Kingston were tied for the lead heading into the 18th tee before the South African stumbled out of the title race with an errant drive into trees and needed a penalty drop. Harrington, ranked sixth in the world, had a birdie putt of 25 feet at the last to force a play-off but rolled his attempt short in front of massive crowds.

The Spaniard, who is a proven Asian expert with earlier wins at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand and BMW Asian Open in China this year, comfortably two-putted from eight feet for par to secure a winning total of 14-under-par 266 and pocketed US$133,330.

"Five victories this year, nobody can think you can win so many times at the start of the year. I feel very happy how the year has gone for me," said Jimenez. "Every win is different. I like to live the moment. This means exactly like any other one. It shows me that I'm still in form. I feel great to win, I don't know what Padraig feels in his skin. It was good to beat him and Kingston and (Thomas) Bjorn. The rest of the guys were competitive."

Kingston stuck to his guns, draining a 30-footer on 17 to edge ahead but Jimenez matched that feat by holing his putt from 25 feet and Harrington tapped in his birdie. The Spaniard said: "After James holed his long birdie on 17, it was very crucial for me to hole mine as well. I didn't think James was in a bad position on 18 and that he'd needed a drop. He played very well. It was unlucky for him."

Attired in the winner's red jacket and a new Omege Red Gold Double Eagle watch in hand, Jimenez commented: "It's nice, I like red, I've got my Ferarris in red. This jacket is going to match with my cars."

Last year, Harrington triumphed by one after birdieing his last two holes. But it wasn't to be a repeat success. "It wasn't looking too bad (heading to 17). I obviously won by one shot behind with two holes to go (last year). But the 16th was a bit disappointing but I putted badly all day. Obviously it cost me the round. I probably missed six very makeable putts in the round and that's what costs me. I needed to finish second here to keep my world ranking and that's good," said the 33-year-old Dubliner.

Kingston , who started the final day tied for the lead with the Ryder Cup stalwarts, showed tremendous poise and was in the lead by one on the par five 12th after a two-putt birdie. But he dropped shot on 14 after missing a drive and fell out of the running by hooking a three-wood into trees and needed a penalty drop.

The Springbok, who has won four times in Asia previously, rolled in a 15-footer for bogey, which ensured he finished tied second with last year's champion. "I was proud of the way I played for a certain part of the day. I just needed to hit a positive shot on 18. I went with three wood and a good swing would have given me a nice aggressive shot into the green and a chance for the win. Obviously I made a bad swing there and that was it. It was disappointing," said the 39-year-old Kingston .

Thailand's Thammanoon Srirot finished as the best Asian player in the elite field with a closing 69 for tied fourth place with Dane Thomas Bjorn on 270, four back, while England's Nick Faldo and David Howell finished tied sixth on eight-under-par 272.

Thammanoon didn't have the start he wanted with bogeys on his opening two holes but charged back into the title frame with birdies on four, 12, 13 and 15 and was only two back with three to go. But his momentum came to a grinding halt when he bogeyed the 16th after missing a six-foot putt. "I'm happy that I came back after another poor start to the round. I tried to give it a go but the bogey on 16 didn't help," said the Thai.

Six-time Major winner Faldo, who entered the last day just one off the pace, said: "I just needed more trust. Just second guessing myself sometimes and I was wrong. My iron shots were good enough but the driving was poor and the putting was, I made one I think all day. So it was not good enough, that was the bottom line," said the 47-year-old Faldo.

The Omega Hong Kong, jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, was also crucial for the Asian players fighting to keep their cards. Korea 's Choi Gwang-soo finished tied 39th for 61st place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit which made him the last man in to keep his card for season. The Korean also earned a place in next week's season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Kuala Lumpur .

Kingston will not retain his Order of Merit position as he will not have played his minimum number of events, hence pushing Choi up to 60th place on the ranking.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee finished tied 39th on 273 to stay ahead of Scotsman Simon Yates, who finished equal 44th, in the Asian Tour Order of Merit race with one event to play. The Thai is approximately US$53,000 ahead of Yates.

Leading final round scores

266 - Miguel Angel Jiménez (ESP) 65-64-71-66

267 - James Kingston (RSA) 71-67-62-67, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 65-68-67-67

270 - Thomas Björn (DEN) 69-67-65-69, Thammanoon Srirot (THA) 67-68-66-69

272 - David Howell (ENG) 65-66-70-71, Nick Faldo (ENG) 69-67-65-71

273 - Zhang Lian-wei (CHN) 70-64-73-66, José Maria Olazabal (ESP) 67-68-71-67, Alessandro Tadini (ITA) 66-67-72-68, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 65-70-70-68

274 - Robert-Jan Derksen (NLD) 68-70-69-67, Miguel Angel Martin (ESP) 68-69-69-68, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 69-64-71-70, Bryan Saltus (USA) 66-68-71-69, Adam Groom (AUS) 64-70-68-72, Gregory Havret (FRA) 66-68-68-72

275 - Andrew Pitts ( USA ) 72-66-69-68

276 - Maarten Lafeber (NLD) 72-67-70-67, Steve Webster (ENG) 69-68-71-68, Søren Hansen (DEN) 68-71-69-68, Jamie Donaldson (WAL) 71-65-71-69, Liang Wen-chong (CHN) 67-68-71-70

277 - Christopher Hanell (SWE) 72-68-69-68, Ted Oh (KOR) 68-69-71-69, Amandeep Johl ( IND ) 71-69-68-69, Markus Brier (AUT) 70-72-66-69, Philippe Lima (POR) 67-70-70-70

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