By Jugjet Singh
RYAN Moore of the United States not only defended his CIMB Classic crown, but also defeated the same rival to claim a cool US1.26 million after four days of work at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club yesterday.
Moore finished on 17-under 271, after a final round of 67, to become the first player to defend a title on the PGA Tour since 2013.
And he also beat compatriot Gary Woodland by three strokes to the big paycheque. Last season, be beat Woodland in a playoff to win his maiden title.
Woodland, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and US player Kevin Na ended tied-second on a 14-under 274 score.
Woodland three-putted the last hole for a 67, reducing pressure on Moore as he claimed his fourth PGA Tour title.
Na led by two strokes early and was within a shot with two holes to play, but he drove into a treetop on the 17th and took a double bogey, and went out of contention.
"There was plenty of pressure on the 15th and 16th as I went into the final chase, but strangely, after Na got his ball stuck on a treetop and we were all involved in searching for it, that moment made me calm, and it helped me regain my composure," said Moore.
With massive crowds gathered at the KLGCC, Moore birdied three of the last five holes to race home to his fourth PGA TOUR victory and become the first repeat champion at the CIMB Classic, which inaugurated in 2010 as the first PGA TOUR event held in Southeast Asia.
“It was incredible to finish the way I did. Coming down to the last few holes, I like to tell myself all the time that I'm a closer. That's what I play golf for. These are the moments and what I'm out here for, so let's do what we can. Let's just hit good shots, and let’s see if we can close this thing, and I was able to do that,” said a delighted Moore.
Asian Tour rookie Cameron Smith of Australia extended his dream season by finishing tied fifth on 276 alongside Korea’s Bae Sang-moon, an Asian Tour graduate, while Filipino Angelo Que and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat were amongst those who shared eighth position on 278, with all three earning exemptions into next week’s PGA Tour event in Mississippi.
Na, who won his first professional title in Malaysia in 2002 and chasing a second PGA Tour victory, led by one at the turn before Moore drew level with his fifth birdie of the day on 10. The pivotal moment came on the drivable par four 14th hole when Na found the green while Moore laid up.
As it turned out, Na three-putted for par while Moore hit it superb approach for an easy birdie to lead for the first time on his own in the final round. He sandwiched a bogey with birdies on 15 and 17 but it was enough to allow him to stroll home at the last hole.
Na was disappointed to let victory slip from his grasp. ”It was my tournament but Ryan played fantastic. Hats off to him, he deserves it. It’s disappointing when you know you had the lead and it’s yours,” said Na.
“I hit a good drive on 14 and a yard shorter, the ball would have come down stone dead for eagle. I hit a good putt and it broke the other way. On 16, I was a bit frustrated. A camera went off and I backed off and never regrouped (to miss his birdie chance). It’s my fault for hitting a bad putt. At the next hole, I got very unlucky, hit the trees and the ball never came down.”
Garcia, the highest ranked player in the field, stayed within touch of the leaders with an outward 33 but a poor drive on 10 led to a double bogey seven which eventually took the steam out of his title run.
“Front nine, I was quite good and gave myself a lot of chances and I just had a really bad break on 10, hit my tee shot a little left and hit the cart path, and the ball kind of disappeared. That one put me a little bit behind the eight ball,” said the Spaniard.