Late Birdie Rush Sees Kiwi Soar in Suzhou

Kieran Muir claimed his second China Tour title.

Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China: With birdies on three of the final four holes, Kieran Muir triumphed in the Mitsubishi Electric FA Golf Open, his second China Tour victory.

The New Zealander took advantage of a late collapse by China’s Ye Jianfeng (72) who led for much of the final round at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club to card a one-under 71. His winning score of 11-under 277 was worth RMB90,000.  

Li Linqiang, the China Tour Order of Merit leader, roared up the leaderboard with a final round 67 to finish third at two shots back. Zhou Yanhan was the top amateur as the 15-year-old Chongqing native closed with a 68 to finish three shots off the pace in equal fourth with Czech Gordan Brixi who shot a 65 for the low round of the tournament. 

Muir and Ye went into the final round as co-leaders on 10-under. While Muir mustered 10 straight pars to start, Ye vaulted into a two-shot lead with birdies at the second and fourth holes. Muir picked up his first birdie at the 427-yard 11th to get within a stroke of Ye.  

After both players made a bogey-five at the 12th, Muir looked out of it when he made further bogeys over the next two holes to fall three strokes behind. Starting at the 15th, however, Muir began a decisive run of three straight birdies.

With Ye holding a one-stroke lead going into the penultimate hole, his tee shot with a pitching wedge at the 149-yard par-three found water. As Ye stumbled to a double-bogey five, Muir made a 70-foot birdie putt for a two-shot lead in what would be a three-shot swing. At the final hole Muir made a par five as Ye sank a five-foot birdie putt to get close.  

“Any win is special. It’s very hard to win a golf tournament anywhere in the world. To win here again is really nice, makes me feel good,” said Muir, who turns 36 on Wednesday. 

“Ye played very, very well. He had a really nice start and I got close and then I made three bogeys. Then I think ‘tough work now’. But I go back to my processes. I find a good place and make three birdies. Unfortunately, Benny (Ye) missed his swing on 17. But he’s a great competitor and he deserves all he got this week.”  

For Ye, his runner-up result marked his best finish at a China Tour event, but also a missed opportunity to collect his first win as a pro. The 32-year-old said he injured himself at the Volvo China Open Qualifying Tournament in August. The following month, he finished seventh at the Guotai Open before missing the cut last week in Hainan. 

“I felt relaxed on the 17th tee. I hit a good shot but I don’t know what happened. I did my best and I just have to accept it,” said Guangzhou-based Ye. “I didn’t play golf for a month because of my injury, but I have made a lot of progress since Hainan. I will try again next week (in Zhejiang).” 

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