South African Jaco Ahlers triumphed in the 37th edition of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters today, finally clinching his first title on the Asian Tour, after patiently winning a war of attrition at Taiwan Golf and Country Club – which has proven to be one of the toughest golf courses this season, with brutal rough and tapering fairways.
Ahlers is a prolific winner of titles on the Sunshine Tour on home soil, with 11, including their Tour Championship in April, and finally got off the mark in Asia following a two-shot victory over India’s Chikkarangappa S. – in the US$1million event, which is Chinese-Taipei’s richest tournament.
A player who says he enjoys more demanding courses, he proved that with a closing three-under-par 69 to finish on four-under – the highest winning score of year – while Chikkarangappa, the joint overnight leader with Korean Taehee Lee, carded a 74.
Australian Travis Smyth (69) and David Drysdale from Scotland (71), tied for third, an additional shot back.
Lee (76), India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar (71) and Chang Wei-lun from Chinese-Taipei (71), were equal fifth, on even par.
Ahlers, three off the lead at the start of the round and playing in the third from last pairing with his brother Hein on the bag, made his move on the back nine with birdies on 12, 14 and 15 and could afford to drop a shot on 16, with his nearest challengers unable to close the gap.
Chikkarangappa, popularly known as ‘Chikka’, had the best chance to catch him but the birdies dried up on the back nine and crucially he dropped shots on 13 and 16.
“It was tough,” said 40-year-old Ahlers, who becomes the first player from his country to win the event.
“It was a grind but very glad to be standing here with the trophy. This means a lot to me. I am feeling comfortable here now. I said to a friend of mine last week I feel like I can win on this Tour. So, there we go. I just tried to keep it in play and make a few birdies, missed a few as well.”
He has been knocking on the door in Asia for several seasons, including at the St. Andrews Bay Championship in August, where he tied for third.
For Chikka, chasing his first win on the Asian Tour, it was another frustrating near miss. He has now finished second three times, third once, and fourth twice.
He said: “Honestly, I feel really good. The way I hit the ball. And I putted extremely good, I am really happy about that. That was my weakness in the last couple of months but this week I made every putt when I had to. Even on the last hole today that was a clutch putt. I think something bigger is waiting for me.”
Smyth’s fine finishing round completed two excellent weeks in Chinese-Taipei, as he was second last week in the Yeangder TPC, where he was defending champion.
“It was extremely difficult, I am very happy to be under par for the week, that was my goal at the start of the week,” said the Australian.
“To cap it off with a three under, I am very pleased. I was playing from the rough pretty much every shot – the fairways are like 10-yard wide out here. It is just about managing the ball from the rough best you can. The difference today was my ball landed okay on the par fives, so I was able to get up and down for birdie quite a lot. I haven’t played well on this course, and it’s been nice to come off a second last week.”
The tournament also marked the best finish by Drysdale on the Asian Tour, since making it through Qualifying School in January.
Said the former DP World Tour regular: “Difficult, lots of bogeys, lots of birdies. Just a difficult, difficult golf course – really enjoyed the challenge this week. A cross between Valderrama and the US Open. It’s so easy to make mistakes.
“I had a good finish today, like yesterday, so I am pleased with that because I think yesterday I was five over but had three birdies in the last six and then today I was a couple over but had three birdies in the last half dozen. I have enjoyed these past two weeks in Taiwan, it has been very hot for a Scotsman, but all in all enjoyed both golf courses. I look forward to coming back hopefully in the future. Looking forward to next week in Singapore.”
Next stop on the Asian Tour is next week’s International Series Singapore on the Tampines Course at Tanah Merah Country Club, from October 5-8.
Scores after round 4 of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters being played at the par 72, 6923 Yards Tamsui Course course (am – denotes amateur):
284 – Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 69-74-72-69.
286 – Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 69-72-71-74.
287 – Travis Smyth (AUS) 71-75-72-69, David Drysdale (SCO) 70-72-74-71.
288 – Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 72-72-73-71, Chang Wei-lun (TWN) 72-72-73-71, Taehee Lee (KOR) 72-71-69-76.
289 – Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 75-71-70-73, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 70-72-73-74, Ben Campbell (NZL) 71-69-73-76.
290 – Liu Yen-hung (TWN) 76-71-73-70, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 72-76-72-70, Scott Hend (AUS) 71-74-73-72, Liu Yung-hua (TWN) 74-72-71-73, Veer Ahlawat (IND) 72-73-70-75.
291 – Yonggu Shin (CAN) 72-71-77-71, Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA) 73-72-73-73, Chan Shih-chang (TWN) 69-75-73-74, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 71-73-73-74, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 73-72-72-74, Jarin Todd (USA) 72-69-74-76.
292 – Chapchai Nirat (THA) 71-76-73-72, Lu Sun-yi (TWN) 71-73-75-73, Todd Sinnott (AUS) 70-75-74-73, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 75-70-73-74.
293 – Kao Teng (TWN) 74-71-74-74, Liao Huan-jyun (TWN) 73-72-72-76, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 73-70-73-77.
294 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 73-73-79-69, Berry Henson (USA) 74-74-74-72, Jack Thompson (AUS) 74-72-75-73, Seungtaek Lee (KOR) 78-70-72-74, Angelo Que (PHI) 69-74-72-79.
295 – Richard T. Lee (CAN) 75-73-73-74, Lin Wen-tang (TWN) 75-73-73-74, Ben Leong (MAS) 72-74-74-75, Jaewoong Eom (KOR) 80-68-72-75, Yikeun Chang (KOR) 75-71-71-78.
296 – Hsieh Chi-hsien (TWN) 75-71-76-74, Michael Maguire (USA) 76-72-74-74, Mingyu Cho (KOR) 76-69-75-76, Dodge Kemmer (USA) 69-72-77-78.
297 – Yongjun Bae (KOR) 73-74-75-75, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 76-72-74-75, Karandeep Kochhar (IND) 73-72-75-77, Micah Lauren Shin (USA) 70-76-73-78, Honey Baisoya (IND) 76-71-72-78.
298 – Hsieh Tung-hung (TWN) 75-73-79-71, Lee Chieh-po (TWN) 75-70-79-74, Danny Chia (MAS) 75-71-72-80.
299 – Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 73-75-79-72, Lin Yung-lung (TWN) 74-71-78-76, Hsu Li-peng (TWN) 76-72-74-77.
300 – Wen Cheng-hsiang (TWN) 74-73-76-77, Lu Wen-teh (TWN) 75-72-73-80, Josh Younger (AUS) 73-75-72-80.
303 – Mardan Mamat (SGP) 73-75-80-75.
308 – Yeh Chia-yin (am, TWN) 75-73-76-84.