New Delhi: Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg proved he was the King of Delhi when he triumphed in the US$1.25 million Hero Honda Indian Open with a grandstand finish on Sunday.
Karlberg earned a well-deserved second Asian Tour title of the season at the Delhi Golf Club, where he also won the SAIL Open in April, by closing with a two-under-par 70 after two superb finishing birdies.
His two-shot victory from overnight leader Baek Seuk-hyun of Korea, who carded a final round 73, was worth US$198,125.
Baek, 20, birdied the last hole for lone second place where a career best cheque of US$135,625 was good enough to secure him a Tour card for next season.
Indian Manav Jaini, who held the lead on the back nine after turning in 31, dropped three bogeys on his homeward journey to settle for a share of third place after a 70 alongside countryman Shiv Kapur, who shot the day’s best of 67.
“It feels just amazing. I feel so comfortable when I’m here. Even when I was struggling today, I felt confident. I am really thankful for the support from the fans and I really like it here,” said Karlberg, who has now earned nearly US$600,000 in his rookie season on the Asian Tour.
Karlberg fought tooth-and-nail with playing partner Baek and Jaini, who was in the group ahead, and seized the initiative with a snaky 20-foot birdie putt on 17 which gave him a two-shot cushion.
However, the Swede, who turned 24 earlier this week, made matters interesting by sending his third shot into the sponsor’s marquee and with Baek in birdie range on 18, a two-shot swing and a play-off was on the cards.
After taking a free drop, the Swede sensationally holed out his fourth for an unlikely birdie before screaming in delight to the raptures of a large gallery around the 18th green. “I made great up and downs all week. The first day, it felt solid and then I struggled a bit. My short game has been unbelievable. I feel comfortable on the greens.
“It feels unbelievable. I came here with the goal to win as I wanted to get closer to Marcus Fraser to try to win the runner-up spot on the Order of Merit.
“To sink the chip, it feels amazing. If you gave me 100 times, I wouldn’t sink it so many. I was so lucky that the pin was in the way as it came out a bit hot. This is my biggest win and it feels just amazing,” said Karlberg, who totaled 11-under-par 277 for the week.
After missing an easy two foot birdie chance on the first hole, the Thai-based Baek struggled by going to three over through 12 holes before salvaging a lifeline with an eagle on 14 to stay within one of the lead. A bogey on 16 derailed his hopes before his final hole birdie which earned him his biggest career cheque.
“I missed some tee shots which were really bad. It was good that my putting was working. I was really nervous until the par five where I made eagle. Rikard played really good the last two holes for those birdies,” said the Korean rookie.
“I’m really happy to get my Tour card. I’ll go to Cambodia next week and try to win there. I feel really confident right now.”
The 27-year-old Jaini was disappointed to let slip the chance of glory at the Hero Honda Indian Open. He charged into the lead with five birdies on his outward nine but dropped costly shots on the 10th, 16th and 17th holes.
“I’m very disappointed. I didn’t hit it badly through 18 holes. Just made a few wrong decisions. On 17 (which he bogeyed), I went for the flag when I should have gone for the heart of the green,” said Jaini, who was playing on his home course.
“I was 11 under (on the turn) and Rikard has just finished 11 under. Going into the back nine, I would have put money on myself to shoot level par. I guess it’s the pressure of big events which do get you sometimes. I didn’t feel the pressure at all. That was why I was attacking. I felt good about my swing and would have played the 17th the same way if I had the chance. I just leaked it a bit.”
Kapur was disappointed he didn’t put more pressure on the eventual winner despite his strong finish. “I’m happy but not completely satisfied. At the start of the day, I told myself that if I got to 10 or 11 under par, I’d give myself a chance. I gave myself opportunities. Story of the whole week, the putter wasn’t hot,” said the former Asian Games gold medal winner.
Arjun Atwal, India’s first winer on the PGA Tour, was amongst those who shared fifth place.