Changhwa, Chinese Taipei: Pannakorn Uthaipas gave himself the perfect birthday gift by securing a three-shot victory for his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the US$160,000 Taifong Open.
The talented Thai, who turns 27 in three days, overcame a shaky start where he traded two birdies against two bogeys in his opening five holes. Three birdies on his way home enabled him to sign for a closing three-under-par 69 and a winning total of 13-under 275 at the Taifong Golf Course in the richest event on the ADT schedule.
Local hero Lin Wen-tang held a one-shot lead after nine but an errant tee shot on 14 saw his title hopes dashed as he stumbled with a double-bogey. A birdie on the last meant he shared second place with Australian Marcus Both (68) and Gunn Charoenkul (69) of Thailand.
Thai Nattawat Suvajanakorn marked his best effort of the week with a bogey-free 67. He settled for fifth place on 279 alongside countryman Phanuvich Onchu, local talent Hsu Hao-sheng and American Blake Snyder, who all closed with 71s.
Pannakorn, who held a two-shot advantage heading into the final round, was thrilled to claim his breakthrough win in the tournament in which he tied-second after losing in a five-way play-off three years ago. He is the second Thai, following Rattanon Wannasrichan, to win the Taifong Open, which came on board the ADT schedule in 2014.
“I don’t know how to describe this feeling. I am very happy. I have been waiting for this win for a long time. I finally proved that I can do it! It’s my biggest win so far. Lin is a very good player but he just got unlucky on 14. I am glad I managed to get the job done,” said the burly Thai.
Pannakorn takes home the biggest prize purse of his career – US$28,000 – and receives six Official World Golf Ranking points. The top-six players and ties also earn points on a sliding scale.
Lin, a six-time winner on the Asian Tour, rued a costly mistake on 14 but took pride in his overall performance which gave his younger rivals a run for their money.
“I guess I managed to pile the pressure on Pannakorn on the front nine but I knew the back nine is crucial. I played well overall. I only made one mistake today but it was a costly one. I just have to tell myself to work harder,” said 42-year-old Lin.
With this victory, Pannakorn moved to the top of the Order of Merit with earnings of US$31,534 this season. He leads by US$15,386 from compatriot Gunn.