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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2007 > European Tour > TCL Classic > Round 4


Chapchai Nirat gains maiden Tour victory

Thailand's Chapchai Nirat held his nerve to claim his maiden European and Asian Tour titles on Sunday with a wire-to-wire three-shot victory at the TCL Classic.

The burly 23-year-old, who had led since his course record first round 61, hit a one-under-par 71 final round for a 22-under total after his rivals failed to apply any pressure as wind and rain curtailed the high scoring of the opening three days.

"There was a lot of pressure today," Chapchai, nicknamed King Kong by his fellow-Thai professionals, told reporters.

"I'm very happy."

Argentine Rafael Echenique, the best of the chasing pack, went three-under on the front nine to move to 18-under but was only able to pick up one more shot and finished second after a round of 68.

"I couldn't put the pressure on becuase I missed so many putts," the European Tour rookie said. "But that's golf."

Chapchai's compatriot Prayad Marksaeng carded seven birdies in his final round -- five on the front nine -- but a couple of bogeys dropped him to a 67 to put him third, while Briton James Heath and Australian Simon Nash shared fourth on 16-under after a 69 and a 68 respectively.

After hitting three bogeys over the last five holes on Saturday, many expected Chapchai to find his five-shot lead under serious pressure early on the final day.

Instead it was his playing partner Miles Tunnicliff, tied for second overnight, who fell apart as rain clouds rolled down from the surrounding hills and across the palm-fringed course.

Chapchai was steadily making pars, leaving his woods in his bag at some of the shorter par-fours and relying on his iron-play and putting to dig him out of trouble when his driving went awry.

There was nothing wrong with his tee shot at the ninth, however, and had the golden touch with his new putter not betrayed him, the Thai would have had an eagle instead of his first birdie.

A bogey just after the turn gave his pursuers hope but there was to be no dramatic collapse and the gallery finally saw Chapchai's huge grin when he sent down a putt for birdie at the 15th.

"I was quite serious, particularly down the back nine when the second place was getting closer," Chapchai said. "I was very pleased."

It was the second week in a row that an Asian player had claimed his first European title after Liang Wenchong's breakthrough victory at the Singapore Masters, and the third successive triumph for the Asian Tour in co-sanctioned events.

China's Liang finished respectably with a 70 for a share of sixth with two others, while Britain's Ryder Cup stalwart Lee Westwood matched his round and tied ninth on 14-under.



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