Ernie Els coasts to record 13 stroke victory
Ernie Els completed his march to victory at the BMW Asian Open in superb fashion this morning, putting the finishing touches to a record 13-shot victory on the way to securing his third title of 2005.
The South African was forced to wait an additional day to claim a victory that seemed surely to be his after his stunning second-round 62 when officials halted proceedings yesterday due to the threat of lightning. The resultant three hour and 15 minute delay ensured the first Monday finish in Asian Tour history and left the leaders with about 11 holes to play.
Returning for another day barely seemed to affect the world number three. He rolled in a five-foot birdie putt that remained from last night at the seventh with his first shot of the day and went on to notch three more birdies for a final-round seven-under-par 65 and a 72-hole aggregate of 26-under 262.
Although preferred lies were in effect this week, that is an under-par score bettered only by Els himself in Asian Tour records, when he posted 29-under 259 at the 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic. The margin of victory, though, is a record, one stroke greater than Brad Hughes' win at the 1996 Players Championship, which was joint-sanctioned with the Australasian Tour.
Els' playing partner, Simon Wakefield of England , finished second at 275, with Dane Thomas Bjorn another shot back in third at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club. Eddie Lee rounded out an outstanding return to form by holding on to joint-fourth alongside Jean-Francois Lucquin of France , two shots behind Bjorn.
The US$1.5 million BMW Asian Open was joint-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours for the fourth time, with 2005 the second year in a row that it was played at the Tomson course.
For Els, any semblance of a challenge was eliminated with his early birdie and a bogey at the eighth by Wakefield , which saw his lead stretch to 10 shots. From there, it was only a matter of time until he added the BMW Asian Open to earlier 2005 triumphs in Dubai and at the joint-sanctioned Qatar Masters.
Said Els: “I am very, very happy and it was a very good week. I knew the parts of my game I was working on and I am a little surprised that it came so fast, but obviously they are the right things. The 62 was the key to the victory, but in the last two rounds I had to play really steady and not make big mistakes.
“The changes I have made gave me a clear vision of what I wanted to do. My pre-shot routine was very clear which helped me, but the mind can wander and you have to bring yourself back to the golf course and back to the shot you have to play. I think the changes I was working on made me really focus and, in a sense, it made it a little bit easier to win.
Continuing his good form at the Shunski Kato-designed Tomson layout, Korean-born New Zealander Lee finished a sensational week, his fourth place coming after seven straight missed cuts in 2005. He was, understandably, delighted.
“I have had a great week. I have learned a lot and to play with Ernie (on day three) was great. I did not hit the ball as well today, but I hung in there and holed some good putts so I am happy.
“As I have said before, it is a long road. Ernie told me that as well and said I have a great attitude. It is a marathon and this is the start. I am going to play this game for 30 years and this is only the beginning, but I am glad I got my season kicked away with a nice finish,” said Lee.
Indian star Jeev Milkha Singh also recorded a strong showing, posting his third top-10 of the season in Shanghai with a tie for 10th. Local favourite Zhang Lian-wei finished as the leading mainland Chinese player in joint 14th, with Indian Jyoti Randhawa and Mo Joong-kyung of Korea sharing 16th.
This year was the fourth edition of the joint-sanctioned BMW Asian Open, which was won by Miguel Angel Jimenez last year. Previous winners also include Jarmo Sandelin (2001) and Padraig Harrington (2002), both triumphant at Ta Shee Golf & Country Club in Taipei .
Ernie Els heading for Monday victory
Ernie Els shook off the inconvenience of a more than three-hour weather delay on Sunday to remain on track for a comprehensive victory at the US$1.5 million BMW Asian Open.
However, he will have to wait another day to hoist the trophy aloft after inclement weather affected play in Shanghai . Officials were forced to halt proceedings at 8.55 am due to the threat of lightning in the area, with play not restarting until 12.10 pm.
The delay of three hours and 15 minutes, pushing the leaders back to a 4.30 pm tee time, ensured play could not be completed on Sunday and will see the first Monday finish in Asian Tour history. Play is to resume at 7.00 am on Monday morning with 24 players to complete their final rounds.
Despite the disruption, little seems to be distracting Els from his march to the title at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club. Only able to complete six holes before darkness fell, the man known as the ‘Big Easy' was three-under-par for the day and at an aggregate of 22-under.
The South African leads playing partner Simon Wakefield of England by eight shots, with Dane Thomas Bjorn, who is one hole ahead the pair, two more shots back in third place at 12-under. Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin is another stroke adrift in outright fourth, with Asian Tour duo Eddie Lee and Jeev Milkha Singh sharing fifth at 10-under.
The US$1.5 million BMW Asian Open is being joint-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours for the fourth time, with 2005 the second year in a row that it has been played at the Tomson course.
For Els, the win was virtually secured when he made birdies at the first two holes and nearest challengers Wakefield and Bjorn recorded early bogeys. His five-shot overnight lead quickly became eight and it seems a formality that he will add the BMW Asian Open to earlier 2005 triumphs in Dubai and at the joint-sanctioned Qatar Masters.
Said the three-time Major winner, who will return to a five-foot birdie putt on the seventh green: “Although I was a little out of sorts and a bit wayward from the tee, I got it going with the putter. I needed to get off to a strong start and I did, so I am happy with that. Hopefully, I can hit it a little bit better tomorrow.”
Continuing his good form, Korean-born New Zealander Lee bounced back from an opening bogey to be at even-par after seven holes, with Indian star Singh registering a birdie at the seventh to be one-under for his eight holes.
Local favourite Zhang Lian-wei will be among those back on Monday and will resume at eight-under and in a tie for ninth with seven holes to go. Defending BMW Asian Open champion Miguel Angel Jimenez recorded at 73 and lies in a tie for 31st.
Among the other Asian players, Indian Jyoti Randhawa is the best placed, currently in a tie for 11th, with Mo Joong-kyung of Korea in 19th.
With only 50 players able to complete their rounds at the Shunski Kato-designed Tomson layout, Stuart Little is the clubhouse leader after posting a final-day 66 and a four-day total of 279.
This year sees the fourth edition of the joint-sanctioned BMW Asian Open, which was won by Jimenez last year. Previous winners also include Jarmo Sandelin (2001) and Padraig Harrington (2002), both triumphant at Ta Shee Golf & Country Club in Taipei .
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