Colin Montgomerie snatches title
Scotsman Colin Montgomerie lifted the US$1.2 million UBS Hong Kong Open title by one stroke after South African James Kingston tripped up late in the final round on Sunday.
Montgomerie, a record eight-time European number one, battled to an even par 70 on a wind-swept day at Hong Kong Golf Club to triumph with a four-day total of nine-under-par 271. His 30th career victory on the European Tour was worth US$200,000 and pushed him back into the world's top-10 at ninth position.
Thailand's Thammanoon Srirot, Choi Kyung-ju of Korea, Chinese Taipei's Lin Keng-chi and American Edward Loar jostled to make it a five-way tie for second place alongside a heart-broken Kingston while Thai star Thongchai Jaidee came in tied seventh to narrow Thaworn Wiratchant's lead at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit race with the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok remaining next week.
Monty's moment of triumph came as a result of a disappointing finish for Kingston . The Springbok was denied a second straight year as victory was well within his grasp. Twelve months ago, he shared the lead with one hole remaining but bogeyed to finish second behind Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain . Today, the script was no different.
With three holes to go, Kingston , who had played so gallantly for most of his round, led by two strokes before it went awry. He three-putted the 16th for bogey and then double bogeyed the 18th after an errant two iron tee shot left him amongst trees. He was on the green in four and agonisingly missed a six-foot putt for bogey which would have forced a play-off.
"I suppose the tournament is over 72 holes but after 71 holes, there was only one winner and our hearts go out to James. He played wonderfully for three rounds and all credit to him for being such a sportsman at the end to congratulate me," said Montgomerie, whose final round card included three birdies against as many bogeys.
"It was a shame for him to finish that way. He must have been nervous on that last tee for sure and it is a very difficult hole, a very difficult drive and that is what hurt him. But I'm glad to be the recipient of that and I'm delighted to have won the UBS Hong Kong Open. Looking at this trophy here, I didn't realise there were so many legends of the game who won this Hong Kong Open and I'm glad I have got my name etched on this as well."
With third round leader Simon Yates of Scotland stumbling early with an opening double bogey six, it paved the way for the chasing pack to challenge for the title. Kingston birdied the third and 15th to pull two clear before his meltdown.
Kingston said: "I just messed up again for the second straight year. It's obviously disappointing with the way I finished but that's golf. Obviously I was aware of the situation.
"I was just so nervous. Last year I pulled it left (on the 18th hole) and this year I wasn't going to do the same thing. I hit it right and just made double from there."
In contrast, Thammanoon enjoyed another high finish in the UBS Hong Kong Open after last year's tied fourth outing. With blustery winds and tight pin placements ensuring a tough day for scoring, the Thai played solidly and sank two birdies and did not drop a single shot.
"I really like this golf course. Last year, I finished tied fourth and now another good finish here this week. The wind made it really difficult and it was nice to be bogey-free. I putted really well today to save some pars," said Thammanoon.
With the co-sanctioned UBS Hong Kong Open being the penultimate event on the Asian Tour, Thongchai reduced Thaworn's lead in the merit race to US$55,530 with one event to play. He shot a final round 70 to finish two behind Montgomerie.
"When I started on the front nine, the wind was very strong and I dropped a few bogeys to turn in two over. But it was a bit better on the back nine and I was happy. My game is very good now, I'm hitting my driver and iron well but just not making enough of putts. I'm quite happy with what I achieved this week," said Thongchai.
Thaworn struggled to post a 77 and stumbled to tied 48th place. His consolation was a cheque of US$5,520 which took his season haul to a record US$502,265, the first player to surpass the half million dollar mark in a single year in Asia .
Third round leader Yates struggled all day and signed for a 75 for 10th place.
There was an anxious wait for players at the opposite end of the Asian Tour Order of Merit in their bid to finish inside the top-60 to keep their full cards for 2006 and also earn a place in next week's season finale.
Australian Richard Moir, who missed the cut by two strokes on Friday, earned the last ticket for 2006 after India 's Amandeep Johl could only finish tied 62nd in the UBS Hong Kong Open after a final round 75.
Moir, who pipped Johl by US$1,371 for 60th place on the merit list, had earlier on Sunday submitted his 2006 Qualifying School forms but will now book a flight to Bangkok instead for the season-finale, which is exclusive to the top-60 players.
Leading final round scores
271 - Colin Montgomerie (SCO) 69-66-66-70
272 - Thammanoon Srirot (THA) 71-67-66-68, Edward Loar (USA) 68-64-71-69, Lin Keng-chi (TPE) 68-69-66-69, K J Choi (KOR) 67-72-64-69, James Kingston (RSA) 68-69-64-71
273 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68-68-67-70, Damien Mcgrane (IRL) 68-71-63-71, Kang Wook-soon (KOR) 64-70-68-71
274 - Simon Yates (SCO) 69-69-61-75
275 - Peter Gustafsson (SWE) 69-69-67-70, Rick Gibson (CAN) 65-66-71-73, Martin Erlandsson (SWE) 65-68-68-74
276 - Ted Oh (KOR) 72-67-67-70, Richard Bland (ENG) 70-68-67-71, Andrew Butterfield (ENG) 69-65-69-73, Maarten Lafeber (NLD) 72-68-63-73
277 - Jose Manuel Lara (ESP) 67-70-69-71, Scott Barr (AUS) 67-72-67-71, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 66-69-70-72, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 69-69-66-73
278 - Thomas Björn (DEN) 70-68-72-68, Liang Wen-chong (CHN) 72-69-66-71, Sam Little (ENG) 69-72-65-72
279 - Simon Dyson (ENG) 71-67-71-70, Gaurav Ghei (IND) 68-72-67-72, Joakim Haeggman (SWE) 71-68-67-73, Marc Cayeux (ZIM) 68-68-68-75, Oliver Wilson (ENG) 75-64-64-76
280 - Brad Kennedy (AUS) 70-69-70-71, Gregory Havret (FRA) 71-70-68-71, Anders Hansen (DEN) 73-67-69-71, Gary Murphy (IRL) 68-73-67-72, Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 72-67-68-73, Adam Le Vesconte (AUS) 68-70-69-73, Shiv Kapur (IND) 69-70-68-73, Marcus Both (AUS) 67-68-71-74
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