India’s Jeev Milkha Singh thanked the “golfing gods” after clinching the Singapore Open yesterday by a shot from Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and South Africa’s Ernie Els in a dramatic finish.
Harrington needed to sink a five foot putt at the last to force a play-off, but pushed his shot right, and then Els, in the group behind, had to do the same but his 15 footer curled round the lip of the hole.
It handed the Indian star, who became the first man ever to win US$1 million in an Asian Tour season, his third victory of the year, with his seven-under 277 earning him US$792,500.
The win had the added bonus of virtually assuring Singh of the Asian Tour Order of Merit title, which traditionally results in an invite to the Masters.
Singh’s rival for that honor, Mark Brown of New Zealand, would have to win all four remaining Asian Tour events this season to deprive him of his second Merit crown in three years.
“Those boys, Padraig and Ernie, put a good effort in out there, but the golfing gods were on my side, so I’m feeling much better now,” Singh said. “I started looking at the leaderboard and I saw I had a one shot lead coming into the last. I wasn’t hitting my driver that well, so I took a three wood on the last and thought ‘at least confirm a five’. To be honest, I’m golfed-out and I haven’t played that well in the last two weeks so, like I said, the golfing gods have been great to me and things worked really well.”
Both Harrington and Singh started the final round five shots adrift of Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat, while Els was four behind.
But the burly Thai star had a horror round.
Three bogeys in four holes from Chapchai threw the tournament wide open, with himself, Singh and Harrington at level pegging as they turned into the final stretch.
The pressure got to Chapchai, who dropped four off the pace to finish joint seventh on 281, leaving Singh, Harrington and Els to battle for the winner’s check.
Harrington’s chances of his third title of the year took a big hit at the 16th when his second shot bounced within 10 foot of the flag, only to run off the back of the green and into the water for a double-bogey.
But the three-time Major winner, playing his last tournament of the season, was not too disappointed.
“I played a couple of good shots at the end, but it was just one shot that cost me,” he said, referring to the 16th. “To see that shot going over the back, well, this game can be a game of inches at times. But I holed the right putts at the right time this year and while I’m not going to feel good about this one for the next couple of hours, when I look back at the year, I don’t think I’ll find it too bad.”
Els played par after par, but couldn’t get a birdie until the “Big Easy,” who won in Morocco last week, finally found his touch and sank a 20 footer on the 16th to put him in the hunt.
“It could have been a win, but Jeev’s a great guy and I’m happy for him,” Els said. “I’ll be back next year and I’ll give it another go.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Australia’s David Gleeson were joint fourth on 279, with South Korea’s Charlie Wi sixth a shot further back.
Phil Mickelson’s tournament effectively ended on the seventh when he hit a disastrous triple-bogey eight as he was challenging for the lead.
The American drove into the water and then watched as his ball rolled off the green on his approach and dropped into the water again.
The world No. 3 eventually finished with a 75 to be ninth, five behind Singh.
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