Abraham Ancer became the first player to win the US$5 million PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers from start to finish today after closing with a two-under-par 68 to finish on 19 under and beat American Cameron Young by two shots.
The highly rated 31-year-old Mexican conducted a masterclass in front running, at the Asian Tour’s season-opening event, to add the title to the other significant victory of his career, the 2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Young also returned a 68 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, while Australian Lucas Herbert carded a 65 to finish third, two shots further back.
Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana re-iterated his position as one of the Asian Tour’s most exciting young players when he fired a 66 to secure fourth, another stroke behind.
“That was my first ever wire-to-wire win,” said Ancer, whose steadiness at the helm was made possible by a solid, repeatable golf swing and sound putting stroke.
“I just didn’t think about where I was on the leaderboard. I just felt like I just want to do that again. I played really good the first round, and I just felt like I wanted to keep that going.
“I kept telling myself, just imagine if I was in like 20th place and just got to go out there and shoot a low one. It worked out. I stayed in the moment. Didn’t really think too much about the previous shots or what was coming after. So, I’m really happy with my frame of mind during these four rounds.”
Ancer led by two from Young at the start of the day and was caught by the American on the seventh but by the turn he had moved one ahead.
A closely fought contest was then expect over the closing holes but surprisingly Young made a bogey on the par-four 13th, where he found the water with his approach shot, before he made Ancer’s life much easier when he doubled the par-four 15th, after he chipped short and three putted.
It meant Ancer was four ahead with three to play and while Young rallied with birdies on 16 and 18 it was not enough to stop the Asian Tour witnessing only its second ever Mexican winner, after Carlos Espinosa’s success in the 1995 Canlubang Classic in the Philippines.
Remarkably, despite persistent windy conditions during the week Ancer only dropped two shots over the four rounds: on the ninth today and the 17th on day two.
It didn’t quite match the spectacular finish of last year when American Harold Varner III triumphed by holing a 92-foot eagle putt on the last but Ancer did also match the lowest winning total of 19 under set by American Dustin Johnson in 2019.
The Mexican, who turned professional a decade ago, earned a cheque for US$1 million.
The result means Young has now recorded eighth top-three finishes since last year, which includes finishing second in The Open, and joint third in the PGA Championship.
“It’s disappointing but I think I played pretty well, and I’m playing a bunch the next few weeks. So, I think I’m in a nice place moving forward,” he said.
“He [Ancer] played some really nice golf. He just didn’t make really any mistakes. I think he maybe made two bogeys this whole week, and with the wind blowing as hard as it was, that’s, one, tremendous control of your golf ball, and two, I think just a lot of mental toughness.
“I’m proud of all those finishes. There’s nothing I’ve thrown away, I don’t think. If one or two of them was a four-shot lead that I didn’t finish off, that’s a bummer, but I’ve been beat a lot. I haven’t thrown any of them away.”
Sadom stormed through the front nine going out in five under to try and catch Ancer and Young.
He said: “I started pretty good, I made two birdies on the first and second hole and I tried to keep the momentum to play well today. I played well on the front nine and on the back nine I think I hit my irons pretty good but couldn’t read the greens.
“I think pushed a bit more harder than yesterday because I didn’t play in the final group, I played in the second last, so I tried to hit more to the pin and today I hit pretty good irons.
“I thought I can do my best on the back nine but my putter was not good enough. I’m very happy today. Very happy it’s the first event for me for this year, and I will try to keep this momentum for the whole year.”
Scores after round 4 of the Saudi International being played at the par 70, 7048 Yards Royal Green GCC course (am – denotes amateur):
261 – Abraham Ancer (MEX) 63-66-64-68.
263 – Cameron Young (USA) 65-65-65-68.
265 – Lucas Herbert (AUS) 68-65-67-65.
266 – Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 66-66-68-66.
267 – Paul Casey (ENG) 68-67-67-65.
268 – Travis Smyth (AUS) 69-69-65-65, Marc Leishman (AUS) 68-64-70-66, Mito Pereira (CHI) 73-64-65-66.
269 – Andy Ogletree (USA) 73-65-68-63.
270 – Joaquin Niemann (CHI) 68-72-65-65, Matthew Wolff (USA) 70-67-63-70.
271 – Kyongjun Moon (KOR) 72-67-69-63, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 71-64-71-65, Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 67-69-69-66, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 70-67-68-66, Anirban Lahiri (IND) 71-69-65-66, Talor Gooch (USA) 70-66-67-68.
272 – Sanghyun Park (KOR) 70-66-72-64, Peter Uihlein (USA) 72-67-69-64, Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN) 70-68-67-67, Branden Grace (RSA) 71-66-67-68, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 68-70-66-68, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69-67-67-69, Jason Kokrak (USA) 67-67-67-71.
273 – Graeme McDowell (NIR) 70-67-70-66, Patrick Reed (USA) 67-68-69-69, Hennie Du Plessis (RSA) 67-68-69-69.
274 – Yeongsu Kim (KOR) 72-67-68-67, Ian Snyman (RSA) 66-68-72-68, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 70-67-69-68, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 65-67-73-69, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 65-70-70-69, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 70-68-67-69, Richard Bland (ENG) 67-67-70-70.
275 – James Piot (USA) 72-68-72-63, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 70-69-69-67, Takumi Kanaya (JPN) 68-72-68-67, Taylor Dickson (USA) 69-66-70-70, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 68-68-69-70, Cameron Champ (USA) 69-67-69-70, Ian Poulter (ENG) 73-65-65-72.
276 – Scott Vincent (ZIM) 66-69-72-69, Cameron Tringale (USA) 71-67-69-69, Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) 70-66-70-70, Sebastian Munoz (COL) 64-73-69-70.
277 – Laurie Canter (ENG) 70-69-71-67, Harold Varner III (USA) 69-66-73-69, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 69-70-69-69, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 68-68-70-71, Ding Wenyi (am, CHN) 70-66-70-71, Matthew Cheung (HKG) 71-69-66-71, Brooks Koepka (USA) 69-67-69-72.
278 – Pat Perez (USA) 70-67-73-68, David Puig (ESP) 70-68-71-69, Jediah Morgan (AUS) 73-66-67-72.
279 – Shiv Kapur (IND) 67-71-72-69, Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 70-67-71-71.
280 – El Mehdi Fakori (am, MOR) 71-69-74-66, Ervin Chang (MAS) 69-71-73-67, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 70-68-74-68, Todd Sinnott (AUS) 72-67-73-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 72-68-72-68, Matt Jones (AUS) 68-68-74-70, Taehee Lee (KOR) 68-72-70-70, Lee Westwood (ENG) 68-72-70-70.
281 – Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 75-65-72-69, Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA) 67-66-78-70, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 71-69-69-72.
284 – Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 70-70-72-72, Issa Abouelela (am, EGY) 72-68-72-72.
287 – Rashid Khan (IND) 70-70-76-71.