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INDIA’S RAI CLAIMS THRILLING PLAY-OFF VICTORY ISPS
INDIA’S RAI CLAIMS THRILLING PLAY-OFF VICTORY AT ISPS HANDA SINGAPORE CLASSIC
 
Singapore: India’s Himmat Rai claimed an enthralling five-way play-off victory at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on Sunday, holing a glorious 25-foot birdie putt on the sixth extra hole to secure his maiden Asian Tour title.
 
The 24-year-old Rai went the distance with Filipino Elmer Salvador at the Orchid Country Club after Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk, South African Tjaart Van Der Walt and Brazilian Adilson Da Silva bowed out after the second play-off hole.
 
All five players tied on nine-under-par 271 in regulation play, the most players in a play-off in Asian Tour history. It was a toe-to-toe battle between the last two men standing before Rai nailed the winning putt in fading light to earn US$47,550 and also a priceless two-year exemption on the Asian Tour.
 
“I can’t believe that I’ve pulled it off. I was just trying to improve my score (as he was four back on the back nine) and the playoff was splendid. I stuck to my routine and thoroughly pleased with my finish.
 
It’s very sweet and special,” said Rai. The talented Indian, who signed off with a one-over-par 71, double bogeyed the 13th hole to fall back on the leaderboard but charged home with courageous birdies on 15 and 16 while long time pacesetter Da Silva dropped a costly double bogey on the 15th hole. In extra time, the play-off was riveting with Salvador holing a long birdie putt on the second extra hole and pulling off wonderful shots before losing.
 
Rai said: “I just knew I had to close it soon before things got out of hand (with the darkness). I gave myself a good chance. That putt, sometimes when you’re under pressure, you tend to rush it but I thought if I don’t close it, the game would go otherwise. I hit a solid putt. I was lucky it went in. “Elmer hung tough. He made some great shots. But this is immense. One of my goals was to win one this year.
 
I’ve grown from strength to strength. I look forward to achieving more,” said the Indian. The 41-year-old Salvador, who closed with a final round 66, was the surprise package as he hung in the play-off and made a 50-foot birdie on the second extra hole which kept him in the tournament. He took his cap off to India’s newest champion.
 
“I didn’t expect Himmat to hole his putt at the last hole as it was a long one,” said Salvador, who took home the runner-up’s cheque of US$19,485. “I was trying to maintain my focus (in the play-off). I knew I had to hole the long putt on the second play-off hole as Himmat was very close and I wanted to get it past the hole and somehow managed to hole it.
 
It’s my first year on Tour and I didn’t expect much from myself this week but I’m happy with home I played,” added Salvador. Van Der Valk was kicking himself as he stood on the 18th green in regulation at 10-under for the tournament but agonizingly missed his three-foot par putt which dropped him into the play-off.
 
The Dutchman, who closed with a 66, said: “I had my chances. That’s the way it is. I can’t be too sad. I haven’t played good at all this year. I was in contention and it was nice.” “The 18th in regulation was my chance. I should have done it there. I just pushed my putt and it broke left to right. I didn’t do too much wrong.
 
It’s nice to be back and playing good again,” he said. The ISPS Handa Singapore Classic donated US$100,000 to the relief and rebuilding efforts in Japan following the tsunami tragedies earlier this year.
 
Leading final round scores271 - Himmat RAI (IND) 68-66-66-71, Elmer SALVADOR (PHI) 68-67-70-66, Guido VAN DER VALK (NED) 71-67-67-66, Tjaart VAN DER WALT (RSA) 69-69-66-67, Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 68-67-65-71.(Rai wins play-off with a birdie at the sixth extra hole)272 - Juvic PAGUNSAN (PHI) 68-68-70-66.273 - Berry HENSON (USA) 67-71-68-67.274 - Danny CHIA (MAS) 66-69-72-67, LAM Zhiqun (am, SIN) 70-69-68-67, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 67-70-65-72.275 - Jonathan MOORE (USA) 68-69-70-68, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 72-64-70-69, Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 70-69-67-69, Quincy QUEK (SIN) 71-68-66-70.276 - Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 69-71-69-67, Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 66-70-72-68, Tim STEWART (AUS) 68-69-71-68, Kieran PRATT (AUS) 71-68-71-66, Pasamet POGAMNERD (THA) 67-70-69-70, LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 70-68-68-70, Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 70-69-67-70, Miles TUNNICLIFF (ENG) 68-69-67-72, Kalle SAMOOJA (FIN) 68-66-68-74.
 
Photo - Asian Tour
 
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