Asian Tour rookie Shaun Norris of South Africa earned a dream victory at the US$500,000 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship (TPC) after closing with a four-under-par 68 in tough conditions on Sunday.
The 33-year-old overcame swirling winds by shooting five birdies in his opening seven holes to defeat overnight leader Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines by two shots with a winning total of 12-under-par 204.
Tabuena was disappointed not to erase last year’s play-off defeat as he settled for second place after struggling to a 73 at the Linkou International Golf and Country Club.
Giwhan Kim of Korea, Hsu Hao-sheng of Chinese Taipei, Keith Horne of South Africa and Thai duo Panuphol Pittayarat and Natipong Srithong, who turned professional two months ago, tied for third place on matching 208s in the weather shortened event.
“Words can’t describe how I feel with this win. I’ve been playing well as of late and I wanted to win something in Asia so this is a dream come true,” said Norris, who earned his Tour card at Qualifying School earlier this year.
Norris overcame a three-shot deficit with a flying start despite the rainy and blustery conditions. He grabbed the lead for the first time this week after seven holes and cruised to victory despite dropping a shot on the 18th hole.
“We always try to better ourselves in golf. The goal is to travel the world and compete against other players. The quality on the Asian Tour is phenomenal. The players are so good. For me to accomplish what I have done is just great,” he said.
“I always joke with my family and friends that I play better in the worst conditions. I think it makes me concentrate more. I probably focus more. I only realised how the scoreboard looked after 17. I was a little bit nervous heading into 18 and it was just a bad chip that caused me to drop a shot,” Norris explained.
He has a chance to fight for a place at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and HSBC-WGC Champions in China in the next two weeks in Macau and Hong Kong as his victory at the Yeangder TPC propelled him to 21st position on the Order of Merit.
As of October 26, the leading four golfers from the Order of Merit will earn starting places in the US$8.5 million HSBC Champions in November while the leading 10 players will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic.
The 20-year-old Tabuena was disappointed to lose out on winning his first Asian Tour title for the second year in a row as he returned with two birdies against three bogeys.
“How many times do I have to finish second? It is frustrating but I’m still happy with the way I played. I stayed committed to my shots so that’s a win for me already. There will be a win for me in the future. I’m still proud of myself,” he said.
“I only started monitoring the scores on the back nine. I knew people were making a move but I didn’t know that Shaun was on -13. At the start of the 12th hole, I started forcing some shots and that caused me some dropped shots on my way home,” Tabuena explained.
Scores after round 3 of the Yeangder TPC being played at the par 72, 7108 Yards Linkou GcC course (am – denotes amateur):
204 – Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 68-68-68.
206 – Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 68-65-73.
208 – Giwhan KIM (KOR) 69-71-68, Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 68-71-69, HSU Hao-sheng (TPE) 69-70-69, Keith HORNE (RSA) 69-68-71, Natipong SRITHONG (THA) 70-65-73.
209 – Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 70-69-70, Danny CHIA (MAS) 71-67-71.
210 – Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 72-68-70, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 70-70-70, Berry HENSON (USA) 70-70-70, LU Wen-teh (TPE) 68-71-71, Chikka S. (IND) 73-65-72.
211 – Lindsay RENOLDS (CAN) 71-71-69, Jason KNUTZON (USA) 73-70-68, LEE Sung (KOR) 72-68-71, Niall TURNER (IRL) 70-66-75, LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 67-68-76.
212 – HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 68-72-72, LIEN Lu-sen (TPE) 71-65-76.
213 – PAN Cheng-tsung (TPE) 71-71-71, Christopher CANNON (ENG) 70-71-72, HUNG Chun-kang (TPE) 67-73-73, Scott BARR (AUS) 69-70-74, Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 69-69-75.