India’s Arjun Atwal defeated defending champion Peter Hedlbom of Sweden in a gripping play-off at the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club.
The pair finished the regulation 72 holes locked together on 18 under par 270 after Atwal surged through the field with a superb eight under par 64 to Hedblom’s 71.
The contest moved into extra holes and Atwal putted for par at the second play-off hole on the 17th for his third European Tour win. He also won on his last appearance in the event in 2003 and walked away with the first prize of €219,483.
For Hedblom there was heartache as his putt for birdie on the final hole in regulation play hung on the lip but refused to drop. An eventful first play-off hole followed where both players scrambled par fives on the 18th after Hedblom drove in the water and Atwal found sand with his second shot before both played remarkable recovery shots. But then the Swede three putted on the next hole, the 17th, and was denied for the third time in a play-off.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said Atwal. “I don’t know how to put it into words. To come here and win this title twice now is incredible. On the first play-off hole I thought Peter was in trouble off the tee but he played an amazing recovery and that put the pressure on me.
“I didn’t think I had a chance starting out and just relaxed from the first hole. It was only on the 11th I felt I had a chance. It is incredible.”
Hedblom was understandably disappointed but proud of the way he battled in his bid to retain his title.
“It was a good defence,” said Hedblom. “You are never happy when you lose and I thought I had a good chance to win. I am proud of myself for the way I defended my title and the putts I holed coming in.
“It was unlucky to three putt the last play-off hole. As it was getting dark I started thinking of that and wanting to win it rather than come back tomorrow. I stressed a little too much on that first putt and hit it too long and missed the one back but that is the way goes. Play-offs are not my thing. I have played three on The European Tour now and lost them all. Hopefully I can get a better record soon.”
Australia’s Kane Webber shot his best round of 65 and finished in a tie for third place alongside England’s Simon Dyson who was in the thick of the fray before a dropped shot on the 16th ended his title charge.
Having enjoyed four wins in Asia, Dyson seemed to be heading for a fifth triumph in the region before the two hour 15 minute suspension for thunderstorms disrupted his plans and he made a costly bogey on the 16th on his return to the course.
“The break killed me. I believe I would have won if we carried on. I just didn’t hit a bad shot coming in. I played a great shot into 15 but the worst bounce you’ve ever seen. Missed the green but got up and down,” said Dyson.
Webber, who won his maiden title at the 2006 Macau Open, enjoyed a slam dunk on his third shot on the par four 13th hole and grabbed a share of the lead before a dropped shot on the 15th hole. He replied with a birdie on the following 16th hole and with a four foot putt remaining on the last hole for birdie, Webber left it short to settle for tied third place.
“It was a perfect shot for birdie. A little uphill and right to left was all that was needed but I didn’t hit it hard enough and left it short. But the 13th hole was great. I was solid off the tee and chipped out in my second shot. Using a lob wedge was the key on the following shot 75 yards from the pin. That was a nice booster heading home.
“But I was quite disappointed I didn’t make the putt on the last hole. I sunk a lot today and I can’t complain I guess,” he said.