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Li Haotong beats Thomas Pieters in dramatic play-off to claim wire-to-wire win

Li Haotong beats Thomas Pieters in dramatic play-off to claim wire-to-wire win

Li Haotong ended his four-year wait for a DP World Tour title in style as he beat Thomas Pieters in a play-off with a gigantic birdie putt to complete a stunning wire-to-wire victory at the 2022 BMW International Open.

Li wins

The Chinese star made a dream start to Sunday's final round, with three birdies in his first five holes extending his three-shot overnight lead to five.

But four bogeys and a solitary birdie in his next ten holes opened the door for the chasing pack and he was joined at the top of the leaderboard with three to play.

Li rediscovered the form that had seen him equal the course record at Golfclub München Eichenried on Thursday in the closing stages, though, making birdies at the 16th and 17th to regain a one-shot lead heading down the last.

But his birdie putt on the 18th green lipped out, and with Pieters safely securing his birdie, the contest had to be decided by a play-off.

And after narrowly avoiding the water with his approach at the first play-off hole, Li managed to get up and down for a closing birdie thanks to a monster putt.

That piled the pressure on Pieters to hole his tricky ten-footer and he was unable to do so, handing victory to an emotional Li, who admitted afterwards that he had been considering quitting golf just ten months ago.

The 26-year-old's previous victory saw him overcome Rory McIlroy in a thrilling final-round battle in Dubai in January 2018 and this time he found himself duelling another Ryder Cup star in Pieters.

Belgian Pieters carded seven birdies and two bogeys in his 67 to catch runaway leader Li at the summit on 22 under par, and he looked in good shape to win the play-off, with Li much further away after three shots.

But a dramatic finish meant Pieters had to settle for second spot, while Ryan Fox finished two shots further back in third.

Li flew out of the blocks on Sunday, holing from 19 feet on the first green for an opening birdie.

He gave himself another good chance at the second, sending his tee-shot to ten feet but narrowly missing the birdie putt.

Li moved to 22 under with a fine birdie from 20 feet at the third before driving the fifth green and two-putting from 38 feet for another birdie.

At that stage it seemed Li was well and truly out of reach but back-to-back bogeys followed on the sixth and seventh to cut Li's lead to three shots.

He steadied the ship with a par on the eighth and came agonisingly close to birdieing the ninth but his 22-foot putt just missed on the right side.

With playing partner Pieters closing the front nine with a five-foot birdie putt, Li's lead was just two shots as he reached the turn.

Li produced a good up-and-down at the 12th but a bogey on the 13th opened the door for Pieters, who pulled to within a single shot.

A bogey from Li on the 15th saw him drop into a three-way tie at the top alongside Pieters and Fox on 20 under.

Li went for the green at the par-four 16th and was lucky not to find the water. He managed to hole his birdie putt from ten feet there, with Pieters also tapping in for birdie as the duo got to 21 under.

Under immense pressure, Li sent his tee-shot at the 17th to 12 feet and sank the putt to regain the outright lead.

He had a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th to win the tournament but his ball hit the hole and did not drop. With Pieters tapping in for his birdie just before Li missed his effort, the players returned to the 18th tee for the play-off.

Li got two lucky breaks as he narrowly cleared the penalty area with his tee-shot before just missing the water with his second.

He sent his third shot around 40 feet past the hole, and with Pieters having a ten-footer to come, it looked like the Belgian had the advantage.

But Li somehow rolled in his birdie try, leaving Pieters with a testing putt to keep the play-off alive and he could not convert.

Li said: "I never thought that one day I would have a trophy in my hands again. It’s a dream come true.

"Thomas (Pieters) played great all day. My putter wasn’t as hot as yesterday. Golf, this is golf. 

"Sometimes things go your way, sometimes not. I’m just so happy to finish on 18 like that.

"Somehow I thought that I would make that putt (in the play-off). I don’t know how I made that stroke, how the ball went in the hole, because at the end of the day the greens were very bumpy. You just never know.

"No-one knows how much I have gone through over the last couple of years. Ten months ago I nearly decided to not play golf. I thought I couldn’t play golf again. 

"Ten months later, right now, holding a trophy. If someone told me ten months ago I would win again, I wouldn’t believe that. 

"I didn’t realise I could be that emotional. Maybe just because I never thought golf could be that tough. 

"Through a lot of tough times, I realised how good that feeling is to play good again."

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