Hua Hin, Thailand: Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka claimed a third title of the season
when he won the US$600,000 Black Mountain Masters after a play-off against
Thai youngster Namchoak Tantipokakul on Sunday.
Hiratsuka triumphed in the Asian Tour’s season-finale at the Black Mountain
Golf Club with a par at the first play-off hole on the par five 18th to pip Namchoak,
who agonizingly bogeyed in extra time.
The Japanese veteran, who also triumphed in the Air Bagan Myanmar Open
and Queen’s Cup in Thailand earlier this season, signed off with a
one-under-par 71 and was caught by a fast-charging Namchoak, who closed
with a 65 for a 14-under-par 274 total in a thrilling end to the season.
“It’s amazing, very unbelievable to win (for a third time). I was a bit nervous
but other players were not shooting low scores. After I missed a putt
(to win in regulation), I knew I still had a chance in the play-off. It was not
a problem for me,” said the 39-year-old Hiratsuka, whose cheque of US$95,100
saw him end the season in fifth place on the final Order of Merit.
“I was trying for pars and if I had a chance, I would go for a birdie. But there
were no easy putts out there, even when the putts were short. I tried hard every
day. I love the Asian Tour and now I want to concentrate on improving my world
ranking and break into the top-50,” added Hiratsuka, who was ranked 82nd
entering the Black Mountain Masters.
Namchoak didn’t quite live up to his nickname of “Lucky” despite a stunning
final round which included seven birdies against no bogeys. But the 23-year-old
found consolation that his cheque of US$65,100 helped him earn his Asian Tour
card for next season.
“It was disappointing not to win. I was feeling slightly nervous and couldn’t
control my shots as much as I wanted to because of the strong wind. Tetsuji
is a very strong player but overall, I had a great week,” said the Thai, who
finished 35th on the merit list.
“Securing my Asian Tour card for next season is a great Christmas and
New Year present for me.”
Overnight leader Piya Swangarunporn was dealt a double blow when he
missed out on the play-off by one shot after closing with a 73 and then
realized he also missed his Tour card by a mere US$205.
“I was feeling very nervous on the first five holes. It isn’t really disappointing
for me because I played very well for the week,” said Piya, who ended up
in 62nd position on the rankings, one rung outside the required mark to earn
his 2011 card.
“This is my best finish on the Asian Tour and it will give me more confidence
in my career to do better. I gained a lot of experience playing in the last flight.
Maybe next time, I won’t be so nervous.”
It was also heartbreak for Lee Sung of Korea who bogeyed his last hole to
finish one shot shy of the play-off duo in his round of 70 while Thai star
Thongchai Jaidee, who was in the thick of battle, fell off the pace with a
double bogey, bogey, bogey run from the 11th hole to eventually finish
seventh, two shots back.
Australia’s Scott Hend, who carded a 65, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of
Thailand, who closed with a 66, also shared third place on 275 in what was
truly an exciting finale to the 2010 Asian Tour season.
Qualifying School graduate Ben Fox of the United States, who missed the
cut in Black Mountain, finished 61st on the merit list to be the last player to
earn his card for next year.
Leading final round scores
274 - Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 65-71-67-71, Namchoak Tantipokakul
(Hiratsuka wins title with par on first play-off hole)
275 - Piya Swangarunporn (THA) 69-65-68-73, Lee Sung (KOR)
66-64-75-70, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 69-66-74-66, Scott Hend (AUS)
276 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68-69-68-71
277 - Marcus Both (AUS) 70-68-69-70, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA)
67-72-70-68, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 70-66-74-67,
Alexander Noren (SWE) 72-69-69-67
278 - Zaw Moe (MYN) 69-72-67-70, Rory Hie (INA) 70-71-69-68
279 - Daisuke Maruyama (JPN) 65-71-73-70, Chapchai Nirat (THA)
66-72-71-70, Mardan Mamat (SIN) 70-68-71-70, Anthony Kang (USA)
66-73-70-70, Matthew Rosenfeld (USA) 67-69-74-69
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy,com