Wallace beats Johnston for Hero Indian Open title

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Matt Wallace of England defeated compatriot Andrew Johnston at the first playoff hole to win the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open on Sunday.

The 27-year-old, who went into the fourth round with a one-shot lead with Shubhankar Sharma, started magnificently by scoring four birdies before making the turn. He made another birdie on the 10th and a bogey on the 16th before signing for four-under-par 68 at the Gary Player layout of the DLF Golf and Country Club.

Johnston put in a bogey-free performance and forced a playoff with Wallace after carding a 66, the day’s lowest score. Both golfers ended regulation play on 11-under-par 277 total.

At the first playoff hole on the 624-yard par-five 18th, Wallace hit the greens in two and made a birdie, while Johnston could only muster a par. With that, Wallace became the first Englishman to win the Hero Indian Open.

Sihwan Kim of the United States made a charge on the last day of the tournament, but he was not able to keep up with the relentless pace set by the leaders. The 2017 Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate shot five birdies and a bogey for 68 to finish the tournament in third place.

Local favourite Sharma started Sunday with two birdies through four holes. However, his tournament unravelled after double bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes. The two-time Asian Tour winner and current Habitat for Humanity Standings leader carded a 75 to finish in tied-seventh.

2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Gavin Green of Malaysia ended the Hero Indian Open on a bright note, scoring seven birdies including four successive ones from holes 14th to 17th and signing for a 71 to finish in tied-16th.

Did you know:

  • Matt Wallace missed only 10 fairways in the entire tournament and averaged 1.54 putts per hole.
  • His best previous finish this season was tied-19th at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which was his last European Tour appearance
  • He is ranked 152nd on the Official World Golf Ranking list going into the Hero Indian Open, and he will move into the top-100 following his victory in India.
  • Wallace won the Alps Tour Order of Merit in 2016. That year, he won six times on the developmental professional golf tour.
  • This is his second European Tour win in his 32nd appearance, following his maiden victory at the 2017 Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort.
  • Andrew Johnston’s maiden victory was at the 2016 Real Club Valderrama Open de Espana hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
  • His best previous finish this season was tied-ninth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
  • Sihwan Kim earned his tour card last year by making the mark at the 2017 Asian Tour Qualifying School.
  • In 2017, Kim was tied-ninth at the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open, eighth at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open and tied-sixth at the Indonesian Masters. He finished 55th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, securing his card for the 2018 season.
  • His best finish in 2018 so far was tied-21st at the LeoPalace21 Myanmar Open.
  • Shubhankar Sharma, who has earned US$548,125 so far, retains his lead on the Habitat for Humanity Standings as well as the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
  • He was the best putter in the tournament. Over four days, he averaged 1.51 putts per hole.
  • Sharma received a Masters Tournament invitation prior to the Hero Indian Open.
  • 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Gavin Green is the first Malaysian to win the accolade. He earned US$582,463 in 2017.

Player interviews:

Matt Wallace (Eng) Fourth Round 68 (-4), Total 277 (-11)

I feel amazing. It was a hard week and a hard golf course. You can’t be off your game. The people who played well are going to be on top. I think, I played great and didn’t miss too many shots. It was satisfying to master this course. Dave (his caddy) was saying that it was set up sometimes like the U.S. Open. You can hit great shots, but it can run into the rough or slope. So, it’s particularly satisfying to win here.

I had never thought of playing it safe during the playoff, even during regulation play when I was farther out. I was swinging it that good. I feel that my long iron play this week was the best part of my game, so as soon as I was all the way down on the end of the fairway, I was going to hit an iron and go for the green.

I was most nervous on the 16th tee. For the second shot, I hit it into the bunker on the downslope. Then, I hit an unbelievable shot out of there and holed the putt. Stephen Gallacher put his arm around me and said, ‘keep going, kid’. That helped me a lot as he’s a veteran. To make a bogey like that was key for my round. I went to the tee box on 17th and got back into the game.

As soon as we finished yesterday and Shubhankar made birdie on 18th  to grab the lead with me, I told Dave, ‘we’re not going to be favourites tomorrow.’ But as soon as I woke up in the morning, I was like, ‘this is going to be like round one and I will shoot my best.’ I planned to play the aggressively and score. That front nine today was special to me this week.

I was in the zone midway through round three. You have to be calm here. If you double bogey, you can’t be too disheartened, and similarly you can be too excited if you shoot an eagle.

This is one of the hardest golf course that I’ve played. I’ll learn from it and I’m looking forward to playing in similar conditions next time.

If Shubhankar had played well and had the local support, it would have been really tough for me. For him to achieve all the things he has done, he has been phenomenal. I’ve done something similar, but on a lower level as I’ve won many times on the Alps Tour in a short time. We had a chat on the golf course and I think he’s going to do really well, especially when he has the local support.

This week has taught me a lot. Hopefully, it can be the start of a few things coming up.

Andrew Johnston (Eng) Fourth Round 66 (-6), Total 277 (-11)

I feel good as I played very well today, as I did on Friday. I was happy to be able to put up a good score today and force a playoff. I’m slightly frustrated, as I attempted a similar putt on the 18th during regulation play. I didn’t think it broke that much and I hit a good putt, but it didn’t go in. It’s alright. I had a very good week.

I was trying to stay patient and I wanted to start well. Yesterday, I made a mistake on eighth, and made a birdie on ninth. Today, I made birdies on both holes, which was good. I played solid on the back nine, so I played lovely all day.

Anything could have happened out there. I just tried to play my own game and I knew that I was just a couple of shots behind. When I birdied 17th and I got to the green on 18th, I realised we were tied.

I didn’t like the yardage at the 18th. It felt like it was just setting me down the left towards the traps a lot of the time. I said, this is a percentage golf course and stick to it. I’ve been hitting the wedges well, putting well and sticking to my game plan and that was what I worked for.

I’m very happy with the way I played this year. Last year was tough. This year’s start has been good so I just got to keep pushing on and keep working hard.

Sihwan Kim (Usa) Fourth Round 68 (-4), Total 280 (-8)

It was a difficult course and I didn’t expect the leaders to shoot so low. I had a number in mind this morning, and I achieved what I thought. The number was four-under-par, obviously. I thought I had a pretty good chance to win, but with scores that low, that wasn’t the case.

Today I was good off the tee. I made some great putts and great up-and-downs. Indeed, I got the momentum going.

Even though I was within two shots of the lead after I birdied the ninth, I approached the back nine pretty much the same as I did the whole tournament, which was to stay aggressive.

At the 18th, I wasn’t the most comfortable on the tee box. I pulled it left into the hazard, then I just made the best out of the situation.

This result will get my confidence up, especially when playing on difficult golf courses. If I continue to play like this, then I’ll be fine.

The conditions have been great and the people have been nice. It’s nice to have co-sanctions like this event, which means more opportunities for Asian Tour players to play on the European Tour.

Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) Fourth Round 75 (+3), Total 284 (-4)

I am disappointed obviously. The good thing today, was that I made a birdie at the last hole. It was a mixed bag. These things happen and it is not an easy course. Even though I started well, I made a few bad swings and in the end it’s alright. I really enjoyed the tournament and I loved the support. I’d like to thank everyone for coming out to support me.

I was just trying to keep up with Matt. He was playing so well. I made a bad swing on the fifth hole, which put me out of contention. I was trying to come back, but I made another bad swing on the seventh. You can’t really drop too many shots on this course and I dropped nine today.

I was five-over-par going into the last hole, but, it’s alright as it’s all part of the game. I’m happy about the way I’ve been playing and that I’m able to get myself into contention every week.

I’m looking forward to playing the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament. It’ll be a good break from stroke play. The last time I won a matchplay event was the All-Indian Amateur, which was six years ago.

I put in a lot of hard work, and I’m happy with the way things have been. Disappointments are part of the game. It’ll just make me stronger. The next time I’m in this situation, I’ll do better. 

Gavin Green (Mas) Fourth Round 71 (-1), Total 288 (even-par)

I made some good putts. Although, a few bad tee shots had cost me during the round. It was an average week and I wished I had played better. I love India and I will want to come back next year.

Towards the end of the round, the putts started to drop and I thought to myself, ‘OK, this isn’t too bad.’ This course is tough, so to walk away with even par is pretty decent.

I’ve made changes to my game and it’s working out so far. Compared to last week, this week a lot better for me. I struck the ball a lot better, my short game got a little strong. I just have to work on my drives, hopefully before my next event.

I’ll be taking a nice break, then probably head over to Morocco and Spain. But for now, I’m going to chill out, have fun and enjoy my break.


Scores after round 4 of the Hero Indian Open 2018 being played at the par 72, 7379 Yards DLF GcC course (am – denotes amateur):

277 – Matt WALLACE (ENG) 69-70-70-68, Andrew JOHNSTON (ENG) 72-66-73-66.

280 – Sihwan KIM (USA) 70-70-72-68.

281 – Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 67-71-74-69, Matthias SCHWAB (AUT) 71-72-68-70.

283 – Emiliano GRILLO (ARG) 65-68-78-72.

284 – Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 72-71-67-74, Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) 73-64-72-75.

286 – Jinho CHOI (KOR) 72-71-72-71, Joost LUITEN (NED) 71-69-74-72, Aaron RAI (ENG) 71-73-69-73.

287 – Robert ROCK (ENG) 73-73-74-67, Keith HORNE (RSA) 66-73-80-68, Clement SORDET (FRA) 72-72-71-72, Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) 74-68-72-73.

288 – James MORRISON (ENG) 70-72-77-69, Jens DANTORP (SWE) 69-70-79-70, Gavin GREEN (MAS) 69-73-75-71, Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 69-70-76-73, Steven BROWN (ENG) 74-71-70-73, Ricardo GOUVEIA (POR) 69-73-71-75.

289 – Casey O’TOOLE (USA) 74-66-77-72.

290 – Gregory HAVRET (FRA) 73-72-73-72, Paul PETERSON (USA) 67-73-73-77.

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