Penang, Malaysia: Unheralded Jhonnel Ababa of the Philippines lifted his first ASEAN PGA Tour title with a two-shot victory in the PGM-ASEAN PGA Penang Championship.
Ababa, 30, was three strokes ahead overnight but was pushed hard by Thailand’s Atthaphon Sriboonkaew who twice drew within one shot of the leader.
However, Atthaphon, an experienced campaigner who won the 2010 Mercedes-Benz Masters Indonesia on the ASEAN PGA Tour, blinked first and his brave challenge ended with a three-putt bogey on the 16th at Penang Golf Club.
Ababa, who represented his country on many occasions during a standout amateur career, shot a bogey-free 69 for a total of 18-under 270. Atthaphon carded a 68 which included dropped shots at the fifth and 16th.
“I’m very, very happy with the win. No bogeys playing in the final group on the final day is very satisfying,” said Ababa, who is from a family of golfers including his uncle Cesar Ababa, a former touring professional
“It’s definitely the biggest win of my career against some good players. I’ve been feeling very confident over the ball all week. I’ve been having a lot of fun out there, just enjoying playing golf and that has kept me very relaxed.
“Today I always thought if I could get two or three birdies I’d be hard to catch. My birdie at 10 was the best, a wedge to about two inches. I’m happy with putts like that.
“I putted well all week and again that is the key here. Everyone hits it close and it’s all about who putts best.”
Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang (69) and Thai Nakarintra Ratanakul (67), who both played college golf in the United States, finished joint third, six shots behind the winner.
The final round turned into a duel between Ababa, named ‘Player of the Year’ on the Philippine Golf Tour in 2011 after three triumphs, and Atthaphon.
Four birdies in five holes from the third saw Atthaphon draw within one stroke of Ababa but the Filipino responded with back-to-back birdies on the the 10th and 11th.
Atthaphon narrowed the gap again with two straight birdies of his own on 13 and 14 before handing the initiative back to Ababa by bogeying the 16th.
“I got great support out there from the crowd and it was like playing at home. My dad comes from about an hour away from here so yeah, it was like playing at home,” said Atthaphon.
“I’m happy with the way I played today and all week. It was just the three-putt on 16 that spoiled my day and that came from a poor decision with my third shot when I was in between clubs.”
Choo said he would head to next week’s US$1 million Fiji International on OneAsia in good spirits after a fine week.
“Overall I’m pretty happy with the way I played. I played four solid days which shows I’m on the right track at the moment,” he said. “It’s good to be going into the Fiji International next week with some good form, so I’m looking forward to kicking on.”
Formerly called Bukit Jambul Golf Club and built in 1984, the Penang Golf Club has undergone a major facelift and reopened in November 2012 with new turf and some modifications to make it more challenging.