Haikou, Hainan, China: Todd Baek won his second PGA Tour Series-China title with a come-from-behind victory at the weather-affected Haikou Championship, which was reduced to 54 holes.
Korean Baek started the third and final round at Sunac Haikou 3KM Golf two shots behind American Charlie Saxon and fired a closing five-under 67 for a 10-under total of 206.
That was two strokes in front of three-time winner Saxon (71) and Canada’s Justin Shin (67), also a former winner on the Tour.
Baek, 26, shot an opening 65 to lead after a weather-delayed first round finished on Friday, then immediately played his second round, with a 74 putting him in the penultimate group on Sunday.
The burly Korean started well, with birdies at the first, third and seventh offset by a bogey on the second, although Shin was even hotter on the front nine, with five birdies, but couldn’t pick up any more shots on the back where he racked up nine straight pars.
Saxon, though, remained in pole position after the front nine, where three birdies put him 10-under, but he bogeyed 13 and 17 on the way home.
Baek carried his form into the second nine, bagging further birdies on 10, 13 and the par-five 18th to set a target no one could match. Saxon was only able to secure a par on the last when he needed an eagle to force a play-off.
For Baek, it was a welcome return to winning ways, having won the Chateau Junding Penglai Open in Yantai in the Tour’s inaugural season in 2014 and finished fifth on the Order of Merit to earn status on the Web.com Tour, where he played full seasons in 2015 and 2016.
“I played well all week,” said Baek. “It feels great as it’s been a while since my last win, which was on this Tour in 2014. I’m looking forward to playing the rest of the year here.”
After only playing one hole on Thursday, when play was stopped at 12.20 pm, Baek played almost two rounds in the tropical heat on Friday, and didn’t play at all on Saturday.
“I played 35 holes on Friday which was very tough in this heat, got up to almost 40, 41 degrees, so I drank a lot of water, and tried to stay as cool as possible. It was very hard, but everyone had the same conditions.”
Saxon, 25, was disappointed not to capitalise on a two-shot lead going into the back nine, but admitted he was delighted with form that has propelled him to the top of the Order of Merit.
“I didn’t quite do what I needed to do on the back nine and Todd played really well. He capitalised on me not going further under par and congrats to him; he was the better man today,” said Saxon, who finished second on the 2016 Order of Merit and played on last year’s Web.com Tour.
“It’s great being in contention. That’s what we play for, that’s what we practice for, although it sucks not being able to finish the deal. I was coming in wanting to win. But you can’t win them all, so I’ll learn from it, learn what I can do better the next time I’m in contention and I’ll end up winning.”
American Trevor Sluman (72), who started the day one behind Saxon, finished fourth at six-under, one ahead of Japan’s Hidetomo Sato (69), while China’s Wu Hongfu (70) and Hong Kong’s Yeung Mo-tin (70) shared sixth place at four-under.
China’s Jin Daxing (73) bogeyed the last two holes to drop back into a share of eighth at three-under with English duo Callum Tarren (73) and Stephen Lewton (74), and American Charlie Netzel (71).
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