Andrew Dodt completed a remarkable return to The European Tour winner’s circle as he denied Thongchai Jaidee victory on home soil in the True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain.
A winner in India back in 2010, the 29 year old had not had a top-ten finish since and had to battle through the Qualifying School last November to regain his playing rights after losing his card at the end of 2013.
“I’m speechless – it’s just come out of nowhere,” said the Australian, who shot a flawless closing 67 for a 16 under par total and one shot victory at Black Mountain Golf Club.
“I played really well yesterday and today but I just didn’t think I’d come out on top. I knew I was playing well but to come out and win is just a dream come true.
“To be honest, losing my card two years ago was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I went home last year, spent 12 months at home, played the Asian Tour again, found myself again, found my game and to be in the winner’s circle again – it’s unbelievable.”
Tournament ambassador Jaidee was level with Dodt with three holes to play, but three-putted the 16th for bogey, failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the next and, requiring a gain at the par five last to force a play-off, left his eagle putt eight feet short and missed the birdie effort after finding the green in two.
Not that the drama was restricted to the closing stages on an enthralling final day. Overnight leader Scott Hend had initially gone two shots clear in the final round with birdies at the second and fourth, but did not find a further birdie and three-putt bogeys at the seventh and 14th, as well as a dropped shot on the 17th where he almost found water from a greenside bunker, left him with a closing 72 and tied second with Jaidee.
Afterwards Hend said: “I pressed for the win on 17 and got a bit aggressive with my bunker shot, and I finished one shot behind. I came here to try to win.
“I thought Dodty was going to make birdie on 18 and I was only 15 under, so I thought I had to play an aggressive bunker shot. Unfortunately, I caught it a little too clean and bogeyed the hole.
“But all in all it was a good solid week and there are a lot of positives to take out of it. It’s good to see Dodty winning, fantastic. Obviously I wish it was me standing there winning, but congratulations to him - he’s played well over the weekend and all credit to him.
“There are a few things that I’ll sit down and discuss with my caddie, things I did incorrectly, and hopefully next time we can solidify it and walk off the last green as the champion.”
Dodt capitalised on his compatriot’s errors by following a hat-trick of birdies from the first with efforts from five feet at the 12th and 20 feet at the 15th.
Jaidee swiftly joined him at the top of the leaderboard, having initially taken a share of the lead with a birdie from five feet at the first.
A run of ten straight pars saw him lose ground, but the former paratrooper did make a gain from six feet at the 12th.
His challenge looked to be in jeopardy when he ran up a double bogey seven at the long next after finding the hazard with his second, but Jaidee responded with birdies from 15 feet at the 14th and tap-in range at the next following a brilliant approach.
But the 45 year old was left to rue his costly finish as he narrowly missed out on adding to his six European Tour titles with a closing 71.
“Overall I played well, but I made some mistakes with the club selection - especially on 13,” said Jaidee.
“I tried my best and it’s okay I finished second. Andrew was a deserving winner as he put up a great performance. I’ll try again the next time.
“I did not putt well at 18 - I didn’t stroke the ball hard enough and didn’t read the line well. But it was a good effort and I enjoyed the great support from the home crowd.”
Jaidee’s compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Canada’s Richard T Lee and American Jason Knutzon shared fourth on 14 under par.
Miguel Angel Jiménez’s bid to extend his own record as The European Tour’s oldest winner had started well with back-to-back birdies kicking off his fourth round, but the 51 year old Spaniard did not gain another shot all day as a 73 left him in a share of seventh.
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