American Jason Knutzon birdied the last two holes to win the US$275,000 Macau Open by one stroke over Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant after a thrilling final round on Monday.
Knutzon fired a closing four-under-par 67 at Macau Golf and Country Club to seal his maiden Asian Tour triumph over Thaworn, who closed with a superb 65. Overnight leader Amandeep Johl of India and Taiwan's Lu Wen-teh finished joint third while Ireland's Padraig Harrington and last year's runner-up Scott Barr of Australia shared fifth place.
The laid-back American, the son of a fighter pilot, finished in a blaze of glory, chipping in for birdie at the par three 17th before setting up the winning putt with a glorious 117-yard approach that stopped three feet from the pin. His four-day total of 16-under-par 268 was a Macau Open tournament record and earned him a cheque of US$44,412.
"There have been a lot of times when I've been in contention but haven't come through and it wears you down a bit. Any time you win it is a great feeling. This is nice," said Knutzon, who picked a career in golf instead of joining the US Air Force.
"I got off to a bad start and bogeyed the first hole and then missed a few putts. I have not got my golf game here this week but my short game was unbelievable. I putted great and it shows that if you keep at it, good stuff can happen," he added.
The final round in Macau was captivating, with Johl, who had led since the opening round, maintaining his grip through the front nine. When he made the turn, he led by two strokes but an errant tee shot on 10 which landed in thick bushes led to a double bogey six.
Barr, who lost in a play-off to Colin Montgomerie here last year, grabbed the lead on the 12th hole but double bogeyed the 13th to fall out of contention. It was a similar story with Harrington, the Macau Open's top draw. He closed to gap with three birdies in his opening six holes but stumbled with a costly triple bogey on the eighth.
Thaworn surged up the leaderboard following a round that included seven birdies and set the clubhouse target of 15-under. But he could only watch from the greenside on 18 and admire Knutzon's strong finish. "I couldn't have shot any lower than a 65. I played really well but just came up short. I'll have to settle for the second place cheque," said the Thai.
The yoga-practising Johl was disappointed with yet another near miss. "I was cruising along through nine. Then I hit it into trouble and three putted the 10th and that cost me. I missed two two-footers on 12 (for bogey) and 13. That was the turning point and I couldn't recover from that. I'll come back and try again," said Johl, still searching for the elusive first Asian Tour title.
Knutzon, playing in the final group with Harrington and Johl, never looked like a threat as he turned in even par and was four off the pace at that stage. Birdies on 13 and 14 coupled with the mistakes by his rivals sparked his amazing comeback before his memorable finish.
"One of my good friends, Zach Johnson, played with Padraig in the final group at the BellSouth Classic (on the US PGA Tour) and won the event. I don't know if it was destiny that I should be playing with Padraig and winning today. Those two good chips on the back nine did it for me. Maybe it was destiny afterall," said Knutzon.
Leading Final Round Scores
268 - Jason Knutzon (USA) 65-68-68-67
269 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 64-71-69-65
270 - Lu Wen-teh (TPE) 68-71-67-64, Amandeep Johl (IND) 62-69-67-72
271 - Padraig Harrington (IRL) 69-67-66-69, Scott Barr (AUS) 66-70-66-69
272 - Harmeet Kahlon (IND) 66-66-72-68
273 - Edward Loar (USA) 71-67-66-69
274 - Simon Yates (SCO) 67-76-65-66, David Kang (KOR) 66-69-72-67, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 65-73-69-67, Chen Tze-chung (TPE) 69-71-62-72
275 - Lu Wei-lan (TPE) 68-71-69-67, Andrew Pitts (USA) 70-71-67-67, Prom Meesawat (THA) 68-75-62-70, Nico Van Rensburg (RSA) 63-70-71-71
276 - Anthony Summers (AUS) 71-70-70-65, Sushi Ishigaki (JPN) 66-72-71-67, Zhang Lian-wei (CHN) 70-69-69-68
277 - Anthony Kang (USA) 68-71-70-68, Vivek Bhandari (IND) 66-69-73-69, Sung Mao-chang (TPE) 69-74-65-69, Chen Tsang-te (TPE) 70-69-69-69, Arjun Singh (IND) 69-72-67-69, Lee Sung-man (KOR) 71-67-69-70, Wang Ter-chang (TPE) 65-70-72-70, Ewan Porter (AUS) 68-70-68-71, Des Terblanche (RSA) 69-70-67-71
About the Macau Open 2004
The Macau Open commemorates its 7th year starting in 1998. It is sponsored by the Macau Sport Development Board. Participating sponsors include the Macau Government Tourist Office, Holiday Inn Macau as the official Hotel and supplier sponsors, Macao Coca-Cola Beverage Co., Ltd., Spa Philosophy, Bridgestone as the official ball supplier and Carlsberg as the official beer. The Macau Open has been held at the Macau Golf and Country Club ever since its inception. Octagon Greater China is the event manager of the Tournament.
For further information, please contact Asian Tour's Chuah Choo Chiang at the Macau Open Media Centre tel/fax: 853 870458. Also, visit www.asiantour.com for Live Scoring of the Macau Open.