Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin completed a dominant start-to-finish victory in the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai, lifting the title by two strokes after a wet and wild final round.
Jacquelin, who held the lead from the first day, fired a one over par 73 to finish on ten under par 278 with Dane Søren Kjeldsen settling for runner-up place at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club after also a 73.
Scott Hend of Australia and Scotsman Simon Yates, both regulars on the Asian Tour, finished equal third while World Number Five Ernie Els finished joint fifth with fellow South African Richard Sterne, last week’s winner Markus Brier of Austria and Korea’s Lee Sung, on 282.
"It is a fantastic moment,” said a beaming Jacquelin after his second European Tour victory. “It is difficult to take the lead in the first round and keep it to the last. It was more difficult the last four or five holes. When you are in a position to win it is always difficult to finish but to be a winner you have to finish. I am really happy. It is my second win so it is not a surprise any more.”
Taking a one-shot lead into the last day, where tee times were brought forward due to the inclement weather forecast, Jacquelin seized full advantage of the calmer conditions earlier on by streaking into a four shot lead with an outward 33.
When the weather turned with gusting winds and a heavy downpour battering the players, scores soared but Jacquelin was able to comfortably protect his lead despite coming home with four bogeys.
As if the heavy rain had not soaked him enough, a group of the French players helped with his celebrations, popping champagne bottles and pouring them over the new BMW Asian Open champion on the 18th green. The celebrations will continue next week with the recent news that he and his wife, Fanny, are expecting their second child in December.
"I had the chance to start pretty well,” he added. “This morning was calm and we had a lot of chances on the front nine and that is what I did. I was three under after nine and I was pretty confident for the last nine. Then the wind picked up and the rain and it was tough from the 12th to the 18th. My shots were not so good so I played for the good side of the green and try and save par," he said.
Kjeldsen also shot a 73 despite double bogeying the 14th and bogeying the 16th as the squall hit but he was not alone in dropping shots and held on to second place.
“I played well again today and had a lot of testing putts,” said the Dane. “I was very calm and stroking it well. The last few holes were just a battle. I saw when I got to the ninth Raphael was 14 under and he didn’t look like he was going to slip. But second on my own is good. I have not played that great this year and this gives me a lot of confidence. There are a lot of big events coming up and I am excited about that.”
Hend, who enjoyed his second straight top-three to signal his full recovery from a serious hand injury, lamented a double bogey at the treacherous par three 14th. "When I had a chance to put some pressure on him, I hit a shot on the par three and it got caught in a wind gust and the ball floated up and dropped into the water. I actually hit a good shot there," said Hend, a former US PGA Tour regular.
"I hit some good shots and didn't make birdies when I could have and then when I made mistakes, I was penalised for it and made bogey. It was unfortunate."
Yates battled gallantly all day until a costly double bogey at the last hole saw him slip from second place to a share of third. "It was difficult out there with the wind and everything. It wasn't easy," said Yates.
"I was playing nicely, just hitting greens and that's what you have to do in that weather. Suddenly I just had a bad last hole. The rain got to me. On the first putt, that's the fastest putt I had all week. It kept rolling, rolling and rolling. I left myself four feet coming back and missed it."
Els, the highest-ranked player in the BMW Asian Open this week, was never able to mount the charge he needed and suffered a three-putt bogey on the second hole en route to a 72 dampened his hopes. "I hit the ball from tee to green pretty well but my putter let me down most of the week.
"I had a good first nine holes of the tournament with good putting and yesterday evening as well but the rest of it, the putting hasn't been good. I needed to get off to a good start but unfortunately I three putted the second hole," said the Big Easy, winner of the 2005 BMW Asian Open.
As the champion of the 2007 BMW Asian Open, Jacquelin will receive more Official World Golf Ranking points than this week's winner on the US PGA Tour, thanks to the strength of field in Shanghai and is poised to move close to the top 60. The Frenchman also qualified for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.