Hong Kong: Sam Brazel enjoyed a life-changing victory at the season-ending UBS Hong Kong Open, sinking an eight-foot birdie on the last hole for a dramatic win.
The 37-year-old Australian showed nerves of steel under pressure to fire a final round of two-under-par 68 and lift his maiden Asian Tour title by one stroke with an aggregate of 13-under 267 at the Hong Kong Golf Club, a Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Brazel, who earned US$330,330 and finished seventh on the final Asian Tour Order of Merit, pipped playing partner and Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello, who missed a long birdie attempt at the closing hole in the US$2 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Hong Kong Golf Association.
Andrew Dodt of Australia and England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who were in the thick of battle on a glorious Sunday afternoon, shared third place on 269 after a 68 and 66 respectively while Malaysian Danny Chia emerged as the top Asian in tied eighth place after a closing 67.
Tied with Cabrera Bello heading down the 18th, which is called ‘The Ultimate’ and rated as one of the toughest finishing holes in Asia, Brazel produced a stunning six-iron approach to set up his winning birdie. Brazel was visibly emotional as he lifted the Hong Kong Open trophy, his first major win since turning professional in 2002.
“I’m still in a little bit of a shock. There’s some seriously good names on that trophy and it’s great to be a part of it. There’s a lot of great history in this event and this venue. It feels amazing, I’m speechless. What a win. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel privileged to be playing first of all and I feel ecstatic,” said Brazel.
The Australian began the week ranked 480th in the Official World Golf Ranking but showed his poise, especially on the back nine, with a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th to 13th getting him back into contention following two bogeys on his outward nine.
With the title on the line, he later conceded his iron shot into the last had a touch of fortune. “It (shot on last hole) was kind of unexpected. I was trying to take it over the middle of the bunker in front of the green and play it safe.
“But I hit it a little thin and a little right but I’ll take it. The satisfying part was the putt. I’ve been working hard with my putting and it’s nice to stand there and roll one in the middle when it really counts,” said Brazel.
Three dropped shots on the seventh and eighth holes put Cabrera Bello out of the lead which he had held at least a share of since the opening day. However, brave birdies on 16 and 17 pushed him back to the top alongside Brazel. But it wasn’t to be his day as he closed with a 69.
“I am proud of the performance,” said the Spaniard. “I messed up a little on seven and eight but I stayed calm and waited for my chances. I gave myself lots of opportunities. Some didn’t fall, but at the end, 16 and 17, they were two great putts that did go in. The one on 18 almost, as well. In the end, it’s a good week. It’s just a bitter taste finishing runner-up.”