Photo - Asian Tour
HIRATSUKA REIGNS WITH LAST HOLE BIRDIE AT QUEEN’S CUP
Samui, Thailand: Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka claimed a superb second victory of the season at the Queen’s Cup after a heroic last-hole birdie on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Hiratsuka drained a 12-foot putt at the par five 18th hole for a closing four-under-par 67 to edge out local hero Thaworn Wiratchant by a single shot after a pulsating final round at the Santiburi Samui Country Club.
Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, who battled bravely throughout the back nine, finished a further stroke back in third place after a 70 at the US$300,000 Asian Tour event while Chinese Taipei’s Lien Lu-sen and Kodai Ichihara of Japan shared fourth.
It was Hiratsuka’s second success of the year on the Asian Tour following his win at the Air Bagan Myanmar Open in April.
“I’m very happy. I love Asia and this is the best form of my life,” said Hiratsuka, whose 11-under-par 273 winning total earned him US$47,550.
An outward 33 sprinkled by three birdies saw the Japanese veteran race to a two-shot advantage but a double bogey on 10 after a wayward drive opened the door for his rivals. Hiratsuka pulled off a huge par save on 12 from six feet before romping home with three birdies over his last five holes to eventually subdue the combined challenges of Thaworn and Pagunsan.
The unorthodox swinging Thaworn, chasing a record tying 12th Asian Tour victory, produced a bogey-free 69, including a birdie on 18 which established the clubhouse lead at 10-under. For a moment, a play-off loomed as Hiratsuka found thick rough on the greenside and left himself with a formidable putt for victory which he duly converted.
“I feel lucky. It was a good putt. After I chipped past the hole, I wasn’t thinking about a play-off. I told my caddie ‘let’s sink this putt’ and I’m glad I did. After the double bogey, it was close again with Thaworn and Juvic. But I just regrouped and said to myself that we needed to birdie home to have a chance of winning,” said Hiratsuka, a five-time winner in Japan.
Thaworn, who was victorious at Santiburi Samui two years ago, held his head high in defeat. “It was a good round from me as I wasn’t driving it well all day but kept the bogeys off my card.
“After Tetsuji chipped past the flag on 18, I thought I had a chance for a play-off but he holed a good putt. Prayad Marksaeng (who was playing with Hiratsuka) told me he holed several big putts during the round,” said the 43-year-old Thai.
Pagunsan, the co-overnight leader, fought hard to overcome two early bogeys to stay in contention. He rolled in a monster 25-foot birdie on 15 and converted another six footer on 17 to remain one behind but failed the sink an eagle on 18 to tie the Japanese winner.
“I had a good look at the hole with my pitch for eagle but didn’t pull it off. I was fighting till the end and it’s still good to finish third as Tetsuji played really well. It wasn’t the best of starts from me with bogeys on two and three but I came back from it,” he said.
Last year’s Queen’s Cup champion Chinnarat Phadungsil signed off with a 66 to finish tied sixth on 278 with Prayad while Bangladesh’s Siddikur enjoyed a career first top-10 by finishing tied eighth.
Malaysia’s Iain Steel, Andrew Dodt of Australia and Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul shared 10th place on 281.
Leading final round scores
273 - Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 72-69-65-67
274 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-63-72-68
275 - Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 69-67-69-70
277 - Lien Lu-sen (TPE) 69-67-70-71, Kodai Ichihara (JPN) 72-70-67-68
278 - Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 65-69-71-73, Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA) 75-69-68-66
279 - Kenichi Kuboya (JPN) 70-68-68-73, Siddikur (BAN) 67-68-73-71
281 - Iain Steel (MAS) 72-69-67-73, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 74-65-70-72, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (THA) 69-70-72-70
282 - Chapchai Nirat (THA) 68-68-70-76, Thanyakorn Khrongpha (THA) 70-71-69-72, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 73-70-70-69
283 - Mars Pucay (PHI) 71-69-72-71, Namchoak Tantipokakul (THA) 70-71-71-71
284 - Wisut Artjanawat (THA) 71-69-67-77, Hsu Mong-nan (TPE) 68-69-73-74, Matthew Rosenfeld (USA) 73-67-73-71, Himmat Rai (IND) 74-69-71-70, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 75-70-69-70