José Maria Olazábal conjured up a shot of pure genius on the final hole to capture the Omega Hong Kong Open after a gripping final round.
The double Masters champion, runner-up last week in Taiwan, was never in the lead until the final putt dropped. Trailing the young duo of Henrik Bjornstad and Adam Scott by two strokes with three holes to play, Olazábal produced three magical holes to win the title.
Birdies at the 16th and 17th put the Spaniard on level terms playing the final hole but he had saved his best to last, punching a five iron under under the branches of the trees on the right, over the water guarding the green and pitching on the fringe before nestling only inches from the hole.
That stroke of genius set up his third consecutive birdie and concluded a final round of 64 for a 22 under par total of 262, one clear of Bjornstad, who was unable to convert his birdie putt from 25 feet, and two clear of Scott who bogeyed the last after finding the bunker off the tee.
“It was a magnificent shot,” said Olazábal. “I had to punch it and didn’t have much green to work with but had a good slice of luck. I didn’t expect that last shot and you always need a bit of good luck. I executed shot the way that I wanted to. But I always say you need a bit of luck … if it had pitched three feet more, that ball would have landed well past the pin.
“But the turning point was on the 16th. My caddie (Phil Morbey) and I said we needed three birdies to have a chance and that 15 foot putt on the16th was a big one … that was the moment for us.
“I don’t think I’ve won with three closing birdies and it was excellent. This is very special and it was fantastic to win as it was a tight finish.”
Bjornstad, whose runner-up finish is his best career outing, paid tribute to Olazábal’s killer stroke. “Ollie finished great to win the tournament. He just came from behind and took it away from us. At one stage, I felt it was between Adam and I (for the title),” said the 22-year-old Norwegian.
Scott was also disappointed, especially with his last tee shot on 18. “I mishit it off the tee and caught the trap and didn’t give myself a shot at it. That’s why I’m disappointed. Ollie hit a great shot and it pitched perfect for him … not much you can do. I had my chances, I could have hit a couple better shots on the back nine but I didn’t.
“Maybe I played a bit safe. But when Ollie finishes three, three, three, there is nothing much you can do. He hit a great shot at the last,” said Scott.
The Omega Hong Kong Open, the season-ending event in Asia, was jointly sanctioned with the Asian PGA-run Davidoff Tour. Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee claimed the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit crown ahead of Charlie Wi of Korea after finishing tied 13th.
“I’m very proud to be successful in my career. This merit title will give me the confidence to move onto the next level as I hope to play in Japan and then the US Tour,” said Thongchai, who set a new earnings record of US$353,060 following one victory and ten top ten finishes this season
Taiwan’s Yeh Wei-tze was the best Asian finisher at joint ninth place after closing with a 67 and ended six shots behind the winner. England’s Mark Foster, who won the Challenge Tour Rankings last season, finished fourth ahead of Sweden’s Carl Pettersson.