Thomas Aiken (Getty Images)
Thomas Aiken collected his second European Tour title with a three shot victory at the Avantha Masters.
A ball-striking masterclass on Saturday had seen the South African sign for a third round 62; building a three shot lead in the process.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar and China’s Liang Wen-chong both launched worthy challenges during the final round – the latter recording a hole-in-one at the seventh – but Aiken held firm to sign for a five under par 67 and 23 under total at Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort.
“I’ve been playing very nicely the last four months, not making a lot of mistakes, but just not sinking enough putts,” said Aiken.
“This week a few went in, I hit some better iron shots which gave me a better chance to sink some putts, and I played some phenomenal golf.”
If Aiken’s brilliant third round was the catalyst for victory, there was still plenty of work to do on the final day.
Bhullar came flying out of the blocks, and looked as though he may add a European Tour title to the Challenge Tour victory he recorded on home soil two years ago when he followed birdies at the first three holes with an eagle at the 356 yard par four fifth after driving the green.
Aiken’s playing partner Liang also closed in with birdies at the second and fourth, but the 2011 Open de España winner responded by holing a six footer at the second to remain two clear.
Aiken knocked in an eight footer at the fifth to go to 20 under, and when Bhullar bogeyed the eighth and Liang double-crossed his tee shot right into bushes at the sixth, took a penalty drop, and eventually three-putted for a double bogey, the South African was four ahead.
However, as quickly as Liang’s title chances looked to have evaporated they reignited with an eight iron ace at the short seventh which halved the deficit.
Bhullar birdied three of the last five to set the clubhouse target at 20 under par, but Aiken completed regulation birdies on both par fives on the back nine – he almost eagled both – then sunk a 30 footer across the final green for a fitting finale.
“These guys kept coming at me today – Liang on the front nine and then Bhullar made some amazing birdies coming in,” added Aiken. “It was by no means a walk in the park.
“I want to dedicate this to my wife Kate – being the wife of a sportsman is not easy and she supports me so much, so this one’s for you Kate.”
Bhullar’s brilliant 64 gave him second, with Liang two shots further back in third following a 69.
“I had a great week in India,” said Liang, whose only European Tour victory remains the 2007 Singapore Masters.
“Although I did not win, I learnt a lot about myself, especially today. To card a double-bogey on the sixth and make a comeback with a hole-in-one on the next hole showed lots of character.
“Unfortunately I could not make as many putts as I would to, but that’s golf. You win some and you lose some. I tried my best and that’s all I can ever ask for.”