Photo - Asian Tour
LAST HOLE BIRDIE LIFTS CRANE TO CIMB ASIA PACIFIC CLASSIC, MALAYSIA TITLE
Kuala Lumpur: American Ben Crane holed a pressure-packed eight foot birdie putt at the last hole to lift the inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia title by one stroke on Sunday.
The overnight leader battled to a two-under-par 69 to edge a fast-finishing Brian Davis of England, who fired a sizzling 66 which included an eagle and two birdies in his last three holes at the Mines Resort and Golf Club.
England’s Luke Donald, who shared the lead until a costly triple bogey on nine, tied for third with Scotland’s Martin Laird, a further stroke back, while Singapore’s Mardan Mamat picked up his biggest career cheque by finishing tied fifth on his 43rd birthday.
Three-time Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa stormed home with four closing birdies for a 66 to also finish tied fifth alongside Australia’s Robert Allenby and American trio D.J. Trahan, Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore.
The 36-year-old Crane turned in 33 to open up a comfortable three-shot lead but wobbled from the 12th hole with three straight bogeys. With Davis finishing strongly, Crane regained his composure by hitting the green with a mighty drive on the short par four 15th hole for an eagle from seven feet.
Tied for the lead with one to play, Crane held his nerve to produce a winning birdie at the 72nd hole and pocketed a cool US$1 million in the first ever event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.
“This has been a really special week, from the time we arrived till now. I had a great opportunity with that putt (on 18) which I’ll always remember. I was so nervous and I was just praying. I just wanted to hit a good putt and to see it go into the hole, it felt so good,” said Crane, who ended the week on 18-under-par 266.
“I just regrouped (after 12) and didn’t get ahead of myself. I knew I was still in the tournament. I hit an unbelievable shot on 15 with my driver and that kind of turned things around. It was an exciting turnaround. That was an unbelievable finish,” said Crane, who has won three previous PGA Tour title.
Davis had the large galleries by the edge of their seats with a glorious finish. The Englishman, the last man to get into the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia, could only tip his cap to the champion at the end of the day.
“I played good all week and kept myself in the hunt. Finished strong but it just quite wasn’t good enough. I am quite disappointed,” said the Englishman, who is still searching for a first PGA Tour victory.
“I missed a short putt on the par four 15th (for bogey) which was a big error there. But I managed to dig deep for birdie, eagle, birdie finish and thought it might be good enough to get me into a play-off. But congratulations to Ben. Hopefully I’ll get my turn next time.”
World number eight Donald rued two poor tee shots which cost him a chance of winning the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia. “I gave it my all out there. I pulled my tee shot slightly on nine as I was being aggressive with my three wood and I couldn’t find my ball among the trees. I made seven there which was disappointing and my bogey on 15 wasn’t very good either,” said the Ryder Cup star.
Singapore’s Mardan made it a birthday to remember by picking up US$237,500, his biggest payday of his career. “It’s is a good birthday gift but I’m a bit disappointed with my putting. I couldn’t hole any putts but I was solid from tee-to-green,” said Mardan, winner of two Asian Tour titles.
“I’m very happy because I worked so hard to get into this tournament and I’m very pleased to finish in the top-10. I stayed patient the whole day and couldn’t hole a putt but I still kept trying and from my results this week, you can see that my patience had paid off.”
Els lived up to his star billing with four closing birdies to finish in a share of fifth place on 270 and gave credit to CIMB for putting on a stellar show in the inaugural year.
“Today, I was really, from tee to green, I was on fire. I don’t think I missed a green all day. I had many opportunities on the front nine and kind of got frustrated around the turn but obviously the finish was good,” said the Big Easy.
“Everybody, the setting, the sponsor, all of them got involved. It was a great success. I think from now, they can take it to the next level and you know, it’s a sign for the bigger names to come from the US Tour. In time, I think everybody will eventually come, I think even Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson).”