Boonchu Ruangkit claimed his first win of 2011 at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters when he fired a steady 71 as his challengers fell by the wayside in a tense finish at Woburn Golf Club.
The Thai stunned the European Senior Tour when he burst on to the scene with four victories in his debut season last year but hadn’t quite performed to the same level this year with a respectable five top ten finishes and no victories.
That is, until now, as the 55 year old emerged from a dramatic final three ball, which was neck and neck until the final stretch, by keeping cool under pressure as his playing partners Gordon Brand Jnr and Barry Lane struggled.
Brand Jnr and Lane fell behind with poor back nines and finished in an all-British three way tie for third alongside Roger Chapman.
“I am very happy to have played well today and the main thing I wanted to do was stay straight and keep safe and I did that,” said Ruangkit afterwards, who claimed the 2010 John Jacobs Trophy, the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year Award and the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award at the Senior Tour’s Awards Dinner on the eve of this tournament in Woburn Abbey.
“It was great to get those awards and I am very thankful. While it was cold out on the course for me sometimes, it has been a fantastic week.”
Rain caused a near two-hour suspension of play during the final round after some of the greens on the Duke’s Course became flooded but that wasn’t going to derail what was a fascinating battle for the title in Woburn.
Ruangkit, who jumps six places to fifth in the Order of Merit with €137,325, started steady in the rain-delayed final round in Buckinghamshire by negotiating the front nine on level par after following up a birdie on the course’s signature third hole with a bogey on the fourth.
He remained level par with nine consecutive pars until he stole an outright lead when Brand Jnr bogeyed the 13th before they both carded a birdie at the 14th, the hole that effectively ended Lane’s title hopes in the twisting and turning story of the final group. The Englishman, who was joint leader going into the final round, saw his hopes of securing back-to-back Senior Tour victories dashed by a triple bogey on the 537 yard par five.
While he did birdie the 18th, it was too little too late for the man who won the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open two weeks ago.
“It was a great birdie at the last and really helpful in terms of my Order of Merit position because it’s helped me make another little inroad into Peter Fowler’s lead but of course it was a little disappointing to finish second after the tournament I had,” said the 51 year old, who is now second on the Order of Merit with €174,060, behind Australian Fowler on €203,779.
Brand Jnr was another player to struggle on the back nine after bogeys on the 11th, 13th, 16th and 17th holes contributed to a two over par final round of 74.
“While Boonchu Ruangkit is a great player and a great winner, it’s just a pity myself or Barry Lane couldn’t push him a little further on the back nine and obviously I’m a little disappointed to have finished second,” said the Scotsman.
“I just missed a short putt on the 11th for par and then missed another at 13 and after that I was just playing Woburn like I remember playing Woburn on previous occasions, not very well!”
While Brand Jnr, Lane and Chapman lamented their missed opportunities and misfortunes, Ruangkit remained the coolest man in Woburn as he collected the top prize of €48,192 and took the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters title back to his native Thailand.