Scott Vincent could’ve been forgiven for thinking this wasn’t to be his week when he turned up at Slaley Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort but his clubs didn’t.
Happily, the missing clubs materialised in time for the US$2million International Series England and worked to stunning effect as the popular Zimbabwean recorded a one-shot victory.
In the final round he fought out a pulsating back-nine birdie battle with overnight leader Travis Smyth before sealing success with a seven-foot par putt on the final green.
“It’s amazing,” said 30-year-old Vincent, reacting to his maiden Asian Tour triumph. “This is the tour I started on, so obviously it’s nice to get the first win out here. It has felt like a long time but my game is trending in a good direction.”
Absent clubs aside, Vincent came to the north-east of England with his game in great shape. He won the Mizuno Open on Sunday on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation and kept his fine form throughout the Asian Tour’s first-ever UK tournament.
Three rounds in the 60s left him at seven-under-par and a stroke behind Smyth going into the final day.
Vincent immediately set out his intentions with birdies at the opening two holes before tree trouble at the third hole saw him give him both shots back.
“Three was just a huge anomaly,” he said. “After coming off that kind of start, you hate to give it away so quickly but I knew there was so much still to play.
“The front nine was not giving up many shots, so anything around even par and you’ve got a fighting chance going into the back nine. That’s kind of where I left myself, which was great.
“Then, as you saw, lots of birdies were made coming in and it was very exciting and so I just had to be very patient and present and keep hitting the shots.”
Vincent mustered four birdies in six holes to the 16th to take control but his skills and focus were given the sternest examination by Smyth.
The talented Australian launched his own scoring spree over the closing holes and drew level at 12-under-par on the par-three 17th, thanks to a stunning mid-iron to 10 feet from where he duly converted.
It looked as if Smyth held the advantage after finding the fairway on the last, while Vincent erred slightly left into the rough.
But the twists and turns continued as Smyth pushed his approach into a greenside bunker.
Vincent duly pounded on a pitching wedge to find the front of the green and put the pressure on the Aussie, who was unable to get up and down.
Vincent still had plenty of work left after coming up short with a long-range birdie putt.
But he showed a steely resolve to hole out for a five-under-par 66 and secure the US$360,000 first prize, becoming the first Zimbabwean to win on the Asian Tour.
“It got very close there at the end, but – just one of those things – it kind of fell in my favour and I’m very thankful,” he said.
Despite the bogey on 18, Smyth was philosophical about the defeat and losing out on his first Asian Tour title.
“Awesome week. Coming into the week I just really wanted to play solid,” said the Australian.
“I did not have any expectations. If you could have said at the start of the week I was going to finish second and had a chance to win. I would have taken it. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I can’t wait to be in the position again.”
He carded a closing 68 to record his best finish on the Asian Tour.
He added: “That tee shot [on 18], I hit a four iron, I don’t know if you can see from TV but there is a very big slope on the fairway, it’s severely downhill. I had seven iron into the green, I was aiming straight into the hole but I had a downhill lie and unfortunately for me if I don’t get my swing right I just block it. I got a bit unlucky, caught the lip of the bunker and it dropped back in. It’s a game of inches but I will go practice my downhill lie seven irons.”
Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana secured third place after shooting a 69 to finish three behind Vincent, while South African Justin Harding was a shot further back after also carding a 69.
Last year’s Asian Tour number one Joohyung Kim from Korea was fifth after shooting 72.
The International Series England also saw five golfers earn their spot at next week’s $25million LIV Invitational Series at Centurion Club.
Smyth and Viraj Madappa from India both claimed a berth as the two highest-finishers from the Slaley Hall event who were not otherwise exempt.
South African Ian Snyman, Kevin Yuan from Australia and Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat will be joining them, having qualified from the cumulative International Series Order of Merit.
Scores after round 4 of the International Series England 2022 being played at the par 71, 7069 Yards Slaley Hall HGR course (am – denotes amateur):
272 – Scott Vincent (ZIM) 69-68-69-66.
273 – Travis Smyth (AUS) 69-70-66-68.
275 – Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 69-72-65-69.
276 – Justin Harding (RSA) 70-66-71-69.
278 – Joohyung Kim (KOR) 67-69-70-72.
279 – Sihwan Kim (USA) 70-68-74-67, Turk Pettit (USA) 74-68-67-70, Viraj Madappa (IND) 68-70-70-71.
280 – Wade Ormsby (AUS) 72-70-70-68, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 74-68-70-68, Jarin Todd (USA) 69-71-70-70, Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 72-65-71-72, Neil Schietekat (RSA) 69-68-70-73, Ian Snyman (RSA) 70-68-69-73.
281 – Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 69-74-72-66, Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 65-72-75-69, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 71-69-72-69, Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 67-74-70-70, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 70-69-70-72.
282 – Todd Sinnott (AUS) 70-69-73-70, Hayden Hopewell (am, AUS) 72-72-68-70, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (ESP) 72-70-67-73.
283 – Dodge Kemmer (USA) 72-72-70-69, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 72-70-69-72.
284 – Jack Davidson (ENG) 71-71-72-70, Stuart Manley (WAL) 69-71-73-71, Adilson Da Silva (BRA) 70-71-71-72, Taichi Kho (am, HKG) 72-67-71-74, Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 68-72-70-74.
285 – Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 70-73-71-71, Jack Harrison (ENG) 74-70-70-71, Tanapat Pichaikool (THA) 67-71-76-71, S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND) 67-74-74-70, Ren Yonezawa (JPN) 70-74-68-73, Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA) 69-72-76-68.
286 – Prom Meesawat (THA) 69-74-71-72, Shiv Kapur (IND) 67-70-76-73, Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA) 71-70-72-73, Kasidit Lepkurte (THA) 67-70-78-71, Poom Saksansin (THA) 71-69-72-74, Paul Peterson (USA) 70-75-71-70, Ben Leong (MAS) 71-74-71-70, Jamie Rutherford (ENG) 72-72-73-69.
287 – Ben Jones (ENG) 71-73-70-73, Scott Hend (AUS) 70-72-71-74, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 70-70-75-72, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 73-72-72-70, Peter Uihlein (USA) 70-70-71-76.
289 – William Harrold (ENG) 70-74-70-75, S. Chikkarangappa (IND) 72-71-73-73, Bryce Easton (RSA) 70-73-73-73, Steve Lewton (ENG) 73-71-75-70, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 73-72-74-70, Berry Henson (USA) 73-72-77-67.
290 – Danthai Boonma (THA) 71-74-69-76, Sebastian Crampton (USA) 69-73-75-73, O.J. Farrell (ENG) 74-70-74-72, Shergo Al Kurdi (JOR) 70-70-79-71.
291 – Dimitrios Papadatos (AUS) 71-73-76-71.
292 – Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 71-70-73-78, Daeng Abdul Rahman (MAS) 71-70-75-76.
293 – Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 73-71-70-79, Keith Horne (RSA) 73-71-77-72.
294 – Karandeep Kochhar (IND) 74-71-72-77.
295 – Yikeun Chang (KOR) 71-70-75-79, Cory Crawford (AUS) 72-73-77-73.
296 – Christoffer Baumann (SWE) 72-73-75-76.
298 – Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 71-73-76-78, Russell Chrystie (ENG) 72-73-78-75, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 76-69-78-75.
301 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 74-71-78-78.