Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong prevailed in the Mandiri Indonesia Open today after a gripping finish here at Pondok Indah Golf Course – confirming he has recaptured the kind of form that established him as one of the region’s most exciting young golfers last year.

Having started the day with a comfortable five-shot margin, he was pushed all the way to the finish line, closing with an even-par 72, for an 18-under-par total, and a two-stroke triumph over Australian Scott Hend, Steve Lewton from England and Chinese-Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po, who all carded 68s.

Hend, chasing his 11th win on the Asian Tour and first in four years, came closest to catching him but, playing in the group ahead, hit his tee shot on the par-five 18th out of bounds and made a costly double bogey.

Nitithorn had appeared to be in complete control at the turn after two birdies and no dropped shots on the outward half to open a substantial lead on 20 under but dropped shots on 12 and 13 to give hope to his three nearest challengers.

However, he was able to par home to secure his third Asian Tour title and put behind him a poor first half to the season, when he was shadow of the player who recorded two breakthrough victories last year, in The DGC Open presented by Mastercard and the International Series Singapore.

Said the 26-year-old, whose nickname is ‘Fever’: “Wow, amazing! Like, I feel so happy about this win you know. Back the last few weeks I didn’t feel confidence like this, but after I played some rounds before, I came here and I just figured out my swing, got some good feelings and transferred to this tournament. Like I said the past few weeks, I was like how to hit, even how to impact the ball very well, I really struggled on my swing. But right now, I feel better, amazing!”

Nitithorn had not finished in the top-10 in nine starts this year until this week and had failed to progress to the weekend four times.

“I didn’t think I was going to win this year to be honest, but I just planned to be just keep doing my best,” he said.

“I was really excited when I finished hole number nine, and on hole number 10, this is funny, my caddie lost my towel and I just freaked out a little bit.”

He earned a cheque for US$90,000 and moved into 11th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Lewton, looking for his first win since the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2014, made a birdie on 18 to close the gap but was left to rue missed opportunities. He also tied for second here last year.

Said the Englishman: “I thought I’d have to shoot really low 60s to be honest. And then when I got to 14, the par-five, I looked at the board and I had a putt to get to 17 under, and I was like oh I’m not actually as far behind as I thought it would be. I just missed and then after that I just didn’t capitalize on a couple of the good shots I hit.”

Lee dropped shot on both 16 and 18 to miss out on his first victory on the Asian Tour but took positives from his performance.

“I am not disappointed actually,” said Lee.

“I gave myself a chance. I am happy with the result. I didn’t think I had a chance when we went out today. I have been hitting my irons well, especially yesterday and today. I gave myself a lot of opportunities at the start, but I think I wasn’t that lucky and left a few out there.”

Korean Yongjun Bae tied for fifth after breaking the course record with a brilliant 63, with 10 birdies and one dropped shot; four of those birdies came in the last four holes.

He finished the event on 14 under with compatriot Mingyu Cho (66), Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert (65) and Chang Wei-lun (71) from Chinese-Taipei.

The next stop on the Asian Tour is the International Series England at Close House, in Newcastle, from 17-20 August.

Scores after round 4 of the Mandiri Indonesia Open being played at the par 72, 7243 Yards Pondok Indah GC course (am – denotes amateur):
270 – Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 66-65-67-72.
272 – Scott Hend (AUS) 65-69-70-68, Steve Lewton (ENG) 68-68-68-68, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 69-70-65-68.
274 – Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 68-70-71-65, Yongjun Bae (KOR) 69-71-71-63, Mingyu Cho (KOR) 72-69-67-66, Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 66-68-69-71.
275 – Gabriel Hansel Hari (am, INA) 67-71-70-67, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 64-70-72-69.
276 – Hanmil Jung (KOR) 69-70-70-67, Minkyu Kim (KOR) 68-69-73-66, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 68-67-73-68, Veer Ahlawat (IND) 72-68-67-69, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 66-66-72-72.
277 – Ian Snyman (RSA) 73-67-67-70, Dongmin Lee (KOR) 71-68-67-71, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA) 68-71-67-71.
278 – Miguel Tabuena (PHI) 69-70-71-68, Ervin Chang (MAS) 70-68-71-69, Viraj Madappa (IND) 71-68-69-70, Settee Prakongvech (THA) 67-70-70-71, Rashid Khan (IND) 68-73-73-64, Douglas Klein (AUS) 70-68-68-72, Tom Power Horan (AUS) 70-70-65-73.
279 – Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 67-72-70-70, Ryo Hisatsune (JPN) 66-70-72-71, Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 71-70-71-67, Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA) 70-67-70-72, Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA) 71-66-70-72, Hung Chien-yao (TPE) 69-68-70-72, Guxin Chen (CHN) 71-66-69-73.
280 – S. Chikkarangappa (IND) 71-68-71-70, Michael Maguire (USA) 71-69-70-70, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 68-69-71-72, Wang Wei-hsuan (TPE) 69-72-67-72, Jonathan Wijono (INA) 73-64-75-68, Natipong Srithong (THA) 70-69-67-74, MJ Viljoen (RSA) 68-62-74-76.
281 – Kartik Sharma (IND) 68-71-71-71, Micah Lauren Shin (USA) 71-69-69-72, David Drysdale (SCO) 68-68-75-70, Poom Saksansin (THA) 72-70-69-70, Runchanapong Youprayong (THA) 70-72-69-70, Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 69-70-73-69, Doyeob Mun (KOR) 65-69-73-74, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 71-71-70-69.
282 – Denwit Boriboonsub (THA) 74-67-71-70, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 73-69-71-69, Deyen Lawson (AUS) 69-71-75-67.
283 – Josh Younger (AUS) 72-70-69-72, Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 70-67-77-69, Kevin Akbar (INA) 72-69-74-68.
284 – Jarin Todd (USA) 72-70-69-73, Nicholas Fung (MAS) 75-67-71-71.
285 – Angelo Que (PHI) 69-71-70-75, Dodge Kemmer (USA) 70-70-73-72.
287 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 72-70-71-74, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 72-70-73-72, Lloyd Jefferson Go (PHI) 71-71-76-69.
289 – Matt Sharpstene (USA) 74-68-72-75.
290 – Matthew Cheung (HKG) 70-72-73-75, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 69-73-75-73.
293 – Nasin Surachman (INA) 69-72-76-76, Elki Kow (INA) 67-75-80-71.

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