Nitithorn Thippong triumphed in the inaugural International Series Singapore today after one of the most dramatic finishes seen on the Asian Tour.
After holing a brilliant pressure-packed 15-foot par saving putt on the par-five 18th to take the clubhouse lead on 16 under Nitithorn, playing in the penultimate group, then had to wait and see if anyone in the last group – consisting of Malaysian Gavin Green, Chinese-Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang and Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand – could catch him.
It proved to be a much longer wait then expected as the last group were forced off the 18th hole for 40 minutes because of lightning, with Chan on 16 under and Green one back.
When the action resumed Chan, who just before the weather delay had found water with his tee shot, made a double bogey while Green narrowly missed a 15-foot birdie putt.
“This is fantastic, just fantastic,” said 25-year-old Nitithorn, who earned a lucrative cheque for US$270,000.
“I cannot describe my feelings right now. I have practiced so hard for this. I hit lot of greens this week and had a lot of birdie putts. I think my mentality was great. I did not think about the score, just the process.”
He closed with a bogey-free three-under-par 69 to beat Green, Phachara and Richard T. Lee from Canada by one shot. Green and Phachara both fired 71s, while Lee returned a 67.
Nitithorn won for the first time on the Asian Tour in March at The DGC Open presented by Mastercard and is the second player this season to win twice on Tour along with American Sihwan Kim.
He added: “It has just been a dream season so far, and to win an International Series event is unbelievable.”
Nitithorn had started the day one shot behind overnight leaders Green, the 2017 Asian Tour number one, and Phachara. However, Green got off to the worst possible start and was four over after four, while Phachara also failed to find his A game.
“I got off to a horrendous start, and kind of just clicked the reset button and just kept going,” said Green.
“Because, with this course, a lot of things can happen. And especially on the last hole, as you saw, there was so much drama down the last. It was anybody’s game, and anybody could have done something. A lot of things were going on, but I just kind of stayed in the moment really. I just tried, I tried very, very hard just to keep moving along and just stay as patient as possible.”
Lee’s 67 came after he dropped a shot on the fourth but then rallied with six birdies.
He said: “I have been struggling with my putting but I changed my putter and grip this week. I have gone to a reverse grip, and it worked out pretty well. I think I have averaged about 29 putts this week. I am always a good ball striker, bottom line is you have got to hole the putts.”
American star Patrick Reed closed with his best round of the week, a 67, which was helped by a hole in one on the par-three 14th. He finished on eight under in a tie for 31st.
“A lot of ups, and a lot of downs today,” said Reed.
“It was weird, it was one of those days when I did not hit the ball well. I decided to leave the pin out of the hole on the third, because I don’t like to have the pin in when I putt, and I go ahead and hole the putt and I think okay. Had as shorty on 13 which I missed, then I go ahead and make a hole in one on 14. So, it was just one of those days.
“I was actually between eight and nine on 14, we had 171, we were trying to figure out what way the wind was doing, so I hit a soft eight, and it never left the flag stick. That’s my third in tournaments, and the biggest one being right here as it kind of got the momentum going because it was really rough early on, needed something to spark the round.”
Amateur James Leow, Singapore’s rising young star, fired a 68 to also finish on eight under. He ended as the leading local player ahead of Hiroshi Tai, also an amateur, who shot 73.
The Asian Tour heads to the International Series Korea next week Lotte Skyhill Country Club Jeju.
Scores after round 4 of the International Series Singapore being played at the par 72, 7535 Yards Tanah Merah CC course (am – denotes amateur):
272 – Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 68-67-68-69.
273 – Richard T. Lee (CAN) 70-69-67-67, Gavin Green (MAS) 65-65-72-71, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 67-66-69-71.
274 – Todd Sinnott (AUS) 68-70-72-64, Chan Shih-chang (TPE) 69-68-66-71.
276 – Jarin Todd (USA) 74-67-68-67, Ryo Hisatsune (JPN) 70-69-68-69, Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN) 70-70-67-69, Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 70-66-69-71, Peter Uihlein (USA) 68-70-67-71.
277 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 71-72-67-67, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA) 67-75-70-65, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 71-71-68-67, Ben Leong (MAS) 71-69-70-67, Turk Pettit (USA) 68-74-71-64, Trevor Simsby (USA) 72-67-70-68, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 67-70-70-70, Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 70-69-68-70, Veer Ahlawat (IND) 69-65-72-71.
278 – Yuki Inamori (JPN) 73-70-68-67.
279 – Sungyeol Kwon (KOR) 73-70-68-68, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 71-66-74-68, Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 70-67-73-69, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 72-65-72-70, Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 67-71-71-70, Kieran Vincent (ZIM) 68-70-71-70, Yoseop Seo (KOR) 69-65-72-73, Jeunghun Wang (KOR) 70-67-69-73, Steve Lewton (ENG) 67-68-69-75.
280 – James Leow (am, SIN) 74-67-71-68, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 73-68-70-69, Patrick Reed (USA) 73-68-72-67, Justin Harding (RSA) 70-70-69-71, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 73-69-72-66.
281 – Rashid Khan (IND) 72-69-71-69, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 70-72-70-69, Tanapat Pichaikool (THA) 71-68-71-71, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 73-69-67-72, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 69-71-68-73.
282 – Zach Bauchou (USA) 74-69-69-70, Paul Peterson (USA) 68-73-69-72, Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 70-69-69-74.
283 – Kyongjun Moon (KOR) 67-73-72-71, Hiroshi Tai (am, SIN) 72-69-69-73, Jake Higginbottom (AUS) 72-71-69-71, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 72-69-68-74, Brett Rumford (AUS) 73-70-71-69, Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 70-71-74-68, Dodge Kemmer (USA) 68-70-70-75, Danthai Boonma (THA) 72-70-73-68.
284 – Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 71-71-70-72, Miguel Tabuena (PHI) 70-73-69-72, Michael Tran (VNM) 68-71-70-75, S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND) 70-72-72-70, Chase Koepka (USA) 73-70-72-69.
285 – Ben Jones (ENG) 71-69-73-72, Scott Hend (AUS) 70-69-74-72, Sam Brazel (AUS) 73-70-70-72, Andy Ogletree (USA) 70-71-73-71, Scott Vincent (ZIM) 64-73-71-77, Aman Raj (IND) 72-71-73-69.
286 – Sangchai Kaewcharoen (THA) 74-66-73-73, Keith Horne (RSA) 71-72-70-73, Mardan Mamat (SIN) 72-71-71-72, Taichi Kho (am, HKG) 71-71-74-70.
287 – Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN) 68-74-72-73, Adilson Da Silva (BRA) 70-72-74-71, Cory Crawford (AUS) 72-71-77-67.
289 – Jediah Morgan (AUS) 73-70-72-74, Hongtaek Kim (KOR) 71-71-74-73, Janne Kaske (FIN) 68-75-75-71.
293 – Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 70-73-73-77, Ben Eccles (AUS) 69-71-77-76.