Thai Wisut Artjanawat scored big for Philippine Golf Tour Asia, rallying from six down and snatching a two-stroke victory with a blistering windup for a 67 as he beat veteran Sung Mao Chang by two for the TPGA Open crown at the CCK Golf Club in Taichung, Taiwan yesterday.
Artjanawat, 37, pounced on Sung’s front side meltdown to move within three despite a 36 then scorched the backside with a brilliant 31, spiked by three straight birdies from No. 12, as he emerged the bewildered winner in the event that faced uncertainties following a rain-marred first round.
But the Thai veteran campaigner delivered the biggest surprise with his sizzling finish, securing the victory with a birdie from close range on the 16th, giving him a two-shot cushion he preserved with two clutch closing pars for a second five-under card and a 14-under 274 total.
“I didn’t expect to win. Six shots were too big a deficit to overcome. But I worked my way back and hit birdies at the back,” said Artjanawat, whose stirring come-from-behind win worth $17,500 ended a five-year title spell in various regional circuits, including the Philippine-based PGTA sponsored by ICTSI.
Jay Bayron, meanwhile, finished with a flourish, birdying two of the last three holes to card a 70 as he ended up tied at 27th at 286.
“It was a good experience. The greens here were very unpredictable but I knew I could’ve finished better,” said Bayron, the lone Filipino entry in the event co-organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High. “I just hope more Filipinos would compete overseas in the future. Playing against a different of rivals on unfamiliar courses will only make us better.”
Artjanawat also relished the chance to compete and be able to snap a long title drought.
“It’s a big confidence boost. Now I feel I can fight on the top level against the best in the region,” added Artjanawat, who placed 22nd in last year’s PGT Asia Order of Merit ranking and groped for joint 29th in the PGTA first leg at Luisita last month.
His victory also augured well for the region’s emerging circuit, which held its first tournament abroad after three years with one of its mainstays emerging as the winner. Artjanawat also became the first foreigner to win in the 85-year TPGA at the quaint military layout affiliated to Taiwan’s Air Force, frustrating a number of locals who had braced for a romp by Sung after surging to a whopping five-shot lead over compatriot Hung Chien Yao after 54 holes.
But Sung failed to recover from a 39 start and failed to match Artjanawat’s blistering finish to settle for a 36 and a 75 for 276.
“I made a lot of bad shots, hit a lot of trees,” rued Sung.
As Sung floundered, Hung took over the lead in one stretch but like his compatriot, he lost in the face of Artjanawat’s superb backside game he sparked with a 10-foot birdie on No. 10. But it was not until he racked up that three-birdie binge that he found himself on top of the heap then buried another three-foot birdie putt on the 16th to all but wrap up the championship.
Hung also closed out with a 36 and dropped to third at 277 after a 71 while another Thai Donlapatchai Niyomchon shot a 69 for fourth at 278 followed by Wang Tsung Chieh and Thai Sae Ueng Nirun, who carded identical 69s to share fifth place at 279.
Luisita leg winner Namchok Tantipokhakul fired a 68 and fellow Thai Polthai Tawit matched par 72 as they shared seventh place with Taiwanese Huang Chi, who shot a 70, at 280 as five PGT Asia bets finished in the Top 10.
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