Chongqing, China: China’s Cao Yi beat England’s William Harrold with a birdie on the first extra hole after firing a sensational nine-under 63 to force a play-off at the Chongqing Championship, the second event on this year’s PGA Tour Series-China.
It was a first pro title for the 28-year-old Cao, who started the day eight shots behind Harrold before his bogey-free round set the clubhouse lead at 14-under, a tally matched by the Englishman after a 71 at Poly Golf Club’s South Course.
Australian Max McCardle (67) and Chinese Taipei’s ‘Max’ Lee Chieh-po (69) shared third at 11-under, one ahead of Hong Kong’s ‘Jason’ Hak Shun-yat (66), who led for the first three rounds at last week’s Chengdu Championship.
Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira (70) and Taihei Sato (69), and Americans Trevor Sluman (70) and Joseph Winslow (66) shared sixth at nine-under, while New Zealand’s Luke Toomey (68) marked his Tour debut with a tie for 10th with Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Hao-sheng (68).
Cao secured a tie for third and seven other top-10 finishes in his 29 previous events on the Tour and finally got his hands on a trophy after a sensational final day.
After opening with birdies on the first two holes, he added three in a row from the seventh, another three in succession from 12 and his ninth of the day at 16 before waiting anxiously for Harrold to finish his round.
On the 542-yard, par-five 18th, Harrold missed a difficult 20-foot downhill birdie putt and his resulting par forced a play-off and a return to the last hole.
Although Cao’s second shot ended in a bunker, he splashed out to four feet to set up a winning birdie putt and prompt wild celebrations on and beside the green.
“It’s like living a dream. It’s like a dream come true,” smiled Cao, who was overwhelmed by hundreds of spectators, volunteers and caddies all cheering his name and asking for pictures.
“I played solid today, tee to green. I putted well and put myself in the right position all the time. It’s awesome!”
Harrold was aiming to become the Tour’s first English winner, but instead settled for another second, after finishing joint runner-up behind USA’s Jeffrey Kang in Chengdu last week.
“I played good, had a couple of bogeys, but I also made some good birdies. That’s just the way it is. I tried to keep calm, that was my goal,” said Harrold, who had four birdies and three bogeys before making par on the last five holes.
“It sucks that I didn’t win, but I was happy with how I played. I’m still happy, solo second as opposed to tied second, so it’s good.”
The PGA Tour Series-China will take a break in April before resuming with the Changsha Championship at Hunan Dragon Lake Golf Club from May 3-6.