Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Getty Images)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat held off a string of star names to capture his first European Tour title at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
One ahead of former Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel at the start of the day, the 23 year old Thai golfer was joined by, amongst others, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and Ryder cup star Edoardo Molinari on a fascinating final day.
However, Aphibarnrat held firm and even a bogey at the last could not prevent the big hitter carding a two under par 70 for a 13 under total; one ahead of Italy’s Molinari.
“This means a lot to me,” said Aphibarnrat. “I have to thank my family: my Mum and my Dad for all their support.”
The tournament had already been shortened to 54 holes, and there was a further storm delay on the final day.
The 23 year old Thai started the day 11 under par with 16 holes to complete in the third and final round.
He birdied the long third after a chip to three feet, then followed that with a curling 15 foot eagle putt two holes later.
Aphibarnrat three-putted the seventh for bogey after running his birdie putt 12 foot past the hole, and dropped another shot at the 12th after chipping eight feet past.
An approach to three feet at the 14th put him one ahead of clubhouse leader Molinari shortly before play was suspended for almost two hours, not that the delay adversely affected Aphibarnrat.
His first shot back was a glorious approach to the 16th, and after knocking in the birdie putt from short range he rescued par from ten feet at the 17th before scrambling a bogey at the last.
Molinari, for whom this was a first made cut since returning from a lengthy wrist injury, had every reason to be pleased with his blemish-free 67.
“It’s mixed emotions because I’m very happy to have a good week for the first time in a long time,” he said.
“The swing changes are starting to pay off which is surprising because I thought it would take a lot longer.
“I’m disappointed because I had a lot of chances on the back nine. The 18th is only the second fairway I missed all day which is very disappointing. I felt if I birdied the last I might have won outright because it puts a lot of pressure on the guy coming up behind.”
Denmark’s Anders Hansen finished third after a joint best-of-the-day 66, with Schwartzel and France’s Victor Dubuisson a shot further back in fourth.
After turning in 31, Harrington dropped three shots on the back nine and dropped into a tie for sixth.