Matt Kuchar had breezed through the fourth, seventh and 18th holes at Sentosa Golf Club all week.
He reached the 587-yard seventh yesterday 11 under on the three par-five holes at the Serapong Course. With a commanding four-shot lead, he had seemingly turned the final round of the SMBC Singapore Open into a procession.
Then, disaster struck. His tee shot missed to the left, his approach went out of bounds before a 10-footer for a triple-bogey. That, coupled with flight-mate and defending champion Jazz Janewattananond’s birdie, wiped out his advantage at the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) tournament.
The veteran American showed tremendous resilience to recover as he managed three birdies over the next 11 holes for a one-under 70 and a winning total of 18-under 266.
The 41-year-old, who was making his Singapore debut, said: “I turned it into more of a competition than I thought it would be, and it was one of my best putts for an eight.
“Golf and life have a lot of similarities. When you face difficult times, it’s how you persevere and overcome those things.”
Referencing the 2017 British Open, where he lost by three shots to Jordan Spieth, who played the final five holes in five under, he recalled: “My caddie said pretend like that was Jordan making those putts against me at Royal Birkdale.
“There was momentum from not getting a quadruple-bogey nine.
“To make a great turnaround and play a great back nine to close out the tournament with birdies on the 16th and 18th was a real thrill.”
Besides the US$180,000 winner’s cheque, he will earn world ranking points. The world No. 24 is eyeing one of spots on the United States team for this year’s Tokyo Olympics, but has 12 other Americans ahead of him in the standings.
Kuchar, the 2016 Games bronze medallist, added: “Qualifying for the Olympics is a huge goal of mine… It would be nice to try to get something better than my bronze from Rio.”
266 Matt Kuchar (USA) 66 68 62 70
269 Justin Rose (Eng) 68 66 68 67
270 Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 67 65 67 71
271 Kim Joo-hyung (Kor) 67 66 67 71
272 Richard Lee (Can) 66 69 65 72
280 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 68 72 74 66
281 Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) 69 73 72 67
283 Liang Wenchong (Chn) 70 72 71 70
285 a-James Leow (Sgp) 70 73 66 76
292 Koh Deng Shan (Sgp) 71 72 73 76
293 a-Low Wee Jin (Sgp) 70 73 75 75
a – amateur
Olympic champion and ninth-ranked Justin Rose finished second, three shots behind Kuchar.
After birdies on the par-four 11th, par-four 12th, par-three 14th and par-four 16th, his red-hot putter went cold. He settled for a 67 and 269 total.
The 39-year-old Englishman said: “I ran out of holes and it was too little, too late. But I really enjoyed the chase, played some good golf and made some good putts. I got close, but Kuchar made a good birdie on the 16th, so every credit to him. It’s a good first round of the year for me, four rounds in the 60s, got in contention, felt some of those nerves which was great.
“Some second places hurt, but this was more of a feel-good second. I’m looking forward to a big year.”
Thai Jazz (71) was bidding to become only the second man, after Australian Adam Scott in 2006, to retain his Singapore Open crown. He said: “I tried to put up a good title defence but Kuchar was playing next-level golf.
“Even after the triple-bogey, he managed to recover. That’s what makes him great and that’s what I need to improve on.”
The Republic’s highest finisher was amateur James Leow. The SEA Games champion closed with a 76 and was tied-46th on 285.
Kuchar triumphs at Sentosa
American golfer Matt Kuchar (left) will always remember his first visit to Singapore. The world No. 24 yesterday won the SMBC Singapore Open with a winning total of 18-under 266. He earned US$180,000 (S$242,000) for his victory at the Sentosa Golf Club. World No. 9 Justin Rose, the highest-ranked player in the field, finished second and three strokes behind Kuchar, while defending champion Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand was a further shot back in third place. The tournament, which drew 34,000 spectators over four days, is co-sanctioned by both the Asian and Japan Tours.
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