Monday, February 16, 2009

King Kang tames Cobra!

Kuala Lumpur, February 15: American Anthony Kang ended an eight-year title drought when he triumphed at the Maybank Malaysian Open with a heroic last-hole birdie on Sunday.

The Asian Tour regular held his nerve on a nail-biting final round at Saujana Golf and Country Club to pick up his third and biggest career victory after a five-under-par 67 gave him a winning total of 17-under-par 271.

He had bogeyed the 15th hole to slip back into a tie of the lead in the US$2 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour but produced a majestic birdie on the par five 18th hole to overcome the challenges of India's Jyoti Randhawa, Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng and Englishmen David Horsey and Miles Tunnicliff by a single shot.

"I actually dreamt last night that I won the tournament but I have those sort of dreams quite often!" said Kang. "It feels great to have beaten a strong field here - it hasn't quite sunk in yet but it is an amazing feeling.

"I've been playing here since 1996 or 1997 and to finally win this event, I'm speechless. Malaysia feels like where I started playing my golf and to win this tournament is great."

Starting the day two off the lead, Kang turned in 33 with some glorious play which included long birdie conversions on the sixth and eighth holes to lead by one stroke.

But the quality of golf that came through meant that no fewer than eight players were in with a chance of winning the title down the back straight.

But Kang showed his mettle after his bogey on 15. Knowing that he needed to birdie the 18th hole to win, he struck two mighty blows to reach the green in two and then safely two-putted for birdie from 45 feet to win the top cheque of US$333,330, and also his first European Tour title.

"That last putt from a foot and a half, I knew it was pretty simple. It's nice to have a putt like that to win," said Kang.

"In the last three rounds, I only made one bogey. After I hit into the water on 15, I told myself let's try to finish this off with a bogey and not to put my head down. Fortunately, I hit a good shot in there to make bogey," said Kang, whose last title was the 2001 Myanmar Open.

Kang's playing partner Prayad was also fighting tooth-and-nail for victory but a costly three-putt bogey on the 16th hole and a poor drive on 18th cost him dearly as he signed off with a 68.

"I just hit a poor putt (on 16) and had a chance for eagle on 17 but didn't make it as well. On 18, I knew I needed to make birdie but hooked my drive and the ball ended in the bunker and all I could do was wedge it out. I didn't have a realistic chance from nearly 30 feet for the birdie putt," said the Thai star.

Randhawa charged up the leaderboard in style but came up one short in the end. He needed to hole a 50-foot eagle chance on the last to get to 17-under-par but came up short in his bid for an eighth career win.

"I had to shoot around eight under to win but I came close. I needed to make birdies coming in but I was happy. Anthony played great, he deserves it," said Randhawa, who closed with a 66.

Horsey set the clubhouse target with a superb 64, which included a homeward 29 but came up one short in the end. "I would have certainly taken that score at the start of the day but then there is a little bit of disappointment not to win having gone so close," said the Englishman.

Tunnicliff felt he had a chance after seeing Kang dump his approach into the water on 15. "I was a little nervous at the start of the day but I felt great coming down the stretch. I birdied three of the last four which was great to do in the circumstances. I saw Anthony hitting it in the water in 15 and I thought that I still had a chance. I just went for it and couldn't have done much more about it," he said.

Malaysia's Danny Chia settled for a share of 11th place, the best finish by a Malaysian since the event was co-sanctioned in 1999, after a 71 while overnight leader Adam Blyth settled for 10th place following a 73.

Leading final round scores

271 - Anthony Kang (USA) 74-66-64-67

272 - David Horsey (ENG) 71-68-69-64, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 71-69-66-66, Miles Tunnicliff (ENG) 71-70-63-68, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 69-70-65-68

273 - Gareth Maybin (NIR) 69-69-69-66

274 - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 70-71-68-65, Liang Wen-chong (CHN) 65-71-67-71, Alexander Noren (SWE) 63-71-69-71

275 - Adam Blyth (AUS) 66-70-66-73

276 - James Kamte (RSA) 70-72-68-66, Johan Edfors (SWE) 69-71-68-68, Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 62-73-71-70, Danny Chia (MAS) 66-65-74-71

277 - Nick Dougherty (ENG) 66-70-72-69
278 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 74-69-73-62, Klas Eriksson (SWE) 68-75-69-66, Angelo Que (PHI) 73-70-69-66, Ross Mcgowan (ENG) 70-70-71-67, Simon Dyson (ENG) 71-66-73-68


280 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-72-69-70

281 - Anthony Kim (USA) 78-65-71-67