The tournament might have represented The European Tour’s first official visit to mainland China but the BMW Asian Open provided a well-known face as champion as Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez captured his third title of the 2004 season at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
Jiménez carded a final round 67 for a 14 under par total of 274 and a three shot victory over long-time leader Simon Dyson of England, who finished with a final round 76 for an 11 under par total of 277, with Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng third on 278 after his closing 71.
Six shots behind Dyson at the start of the day, Jiménez’s performance represented the biggest final round comeback of the year and the biggest final round comeback to win since Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez made up a six shot deficit to capture the Telefonica Open de Madrid last October.
“I played very well right from the start of the round and when the putts start to go in too, then you know you can make a score,” said Jiménez, whose first prize of €210,349 (£140,119) saw him jump to second place on the Volvo Order of Merit with €737,290 (£491,127).
“I am really pleased because right now, every time I step onto the golf course I feel good and if I play like this I feel I can do anything. In fact, from about August last year, my form has been really pleasing,” added the Spaniard, who has had five top ten finishes in his last 15 starts.
Jiménez made his intentions clear right from the off in the final round when he birdied the first two holes and, with Dyson in the final group behind him bogeying the opening hole, the pendulum began to swing.
Jiménez, whose earlier wins this season came in the Johnnie Walker Classic and the Algarve Open de Portugal Caixa Geral de Depositos, continued to press and a bogey at the fourth was quickly negated by birdies at the seventh and tenth, the latter courtesy of a superb recovery shot from a fairway bunker.
The forward move put the Spaniard in contention but he sprung into the lead when he pitched in for a superb eagle three at the 13th. With his nearest challengers faltering, Jiménez gave them a glimmer of hope when he three putted the 17th for bogey, but he finished in style, playing short of the water at the long 18th – which he had found on Saturday on his way to a double-bogey seven – before pitching to five feet and holing out for a closing birdie four to secure the title.
Second placed Dyson had been hoping to notch his maiden victory on The European Tour International Schedule but had a day to forget and became the third player, following Darren Clarke (Smurfit European Open 1999) and Peter Dawson (TPC 1977) to lose a six shot lead in the final round.
The 26 year old Englishman battled hard but could not find the sparkling form which had seen him lead from day one. A fifth bogey of the day at the 15th, where he found the greenside bunker, ended his hopes of victory but he finished bravely with three par figures to secure second place outright, the €140,227 (£93,408) moving him in the right direction to regain his card he lost at the end of the 2003 season, while his finish also secured him a place in the field for next week’s Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe in Germany.
While Jiménez went on to win, for a spell in the middle of the final round, it looked like the champion would be Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng, who found a hot spell of form around the turn to take over the lead.
The 38 year old former Asian Golfer of the Year, birdied the eighth, ninth and 11th to overtake his playing partner Dyson and give himself hope of his own maiden European Tour title.
But, moments after Jiménez made his forward move with his audacious eagle three at the 13th, Marksaeng’s challenge began to falter. A bogey six at the 13th was followed by three further bogeys in the next four holes to remove his hopes of victory.
Fourth place went to Korea’s KJ Choi, who finished with a 68 for a nine under par total of 279. The man nicknamed ‘The Tank’ had lived up to it in the early part of the round when he steamrollered through the field with six birdies in his first 15 holes.
It gave the Korean, who celebrates his 34th birthday next week, an outside chance of adding to his first European Tour success which came in last season’s Linde German Masters, but Choi let the opportunity slip with bogeys at the final two holes.