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Sarit's super birdie blitz seals sensational Shenzhen victory

China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-07 09:41
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Sarit Suwannarut of Thailand poses with the trophy after winning the Volvo China Open by
six shots at Hidden Grace Golf Club in Shenzhen, Guangdong province on Sunday. AFP

Sarit Suwannarut stormed to a six-shot victory at the Volvo China Open in Shenzhen, Guangdong province on Sunday to claim his second title on the Asian Tour.

The Thai fired a final-round 64, including 10 birdies, for a 19-under-par total of 269 at Hidden Grace Golf Club to finish comfortably ahead of second-placed Kho Tai-chi of Hong Kong, China. Kho sensationally chipped in for an eagle on the 18th for a 65, to tie for second place with Chinese youngster Chen Guxin, the third-round leader.

Spain's Eugenio Chacarra, who led at the halfway mark, fired a 68 to finish a further shot back in outright fourth in the $1.5-million event being played on the Asian Tour for the first time since 2019 and part of the International Series.

Suwannarut's task was made a lot easier on Sunday as his two nearest challengers — overnight leader Chen and amateur Ding Wenyi — produced disappointing final rounds, with both Chinese players carding 73s.

"I wanted to find something this week because it has been a tough year," said 25-year-old Suwannarut. "I have missed a lot of cuts. I didn't finish good at all, but it happens.

"My putting this week was insane. It's like lights out. I feel like I saw every line, saw how to putt, saw everything."

He becomes the second Thai to win the China Open, after Prayad Marksaeng in 1996. The big-hitting Suwannarut also leapt from 85th to 12th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Chen birdied his final two holes and punched the air in delight on the 18th green when his birdie putt dropped in the cup. However, he later reflected on a wasted opportunity to win his home championship for the first time.

"Sarit's putting was extraordinary today," said Chen. "He played very well and by contrast I just played badly. I need to learn how to play well in the final round."

Despite his frustration, Chen's tied-second finish was a boost in his bid retain his Asian Tour card for next year. The result saw him catapult from 115th to 40th place on the Order of Merit, with four events remaining. The top 65 players retain their playing privileges.

Kho took full advantage of the perfect scoring conditions and immaculate greens on Sunday to shoot a seven-under 65 — which included an eagle two from 20 yards (18 meters) at the 18th — to finish tied second with Chen at 13-under.

"Walking up to that chip I was saying to my caddie that I have to do a better job with my short game; to just trust it and let go," said Kho of his eagle at the last. "I was able to let go on the chip — it was a really good chip and it looked good all the way. I was really happy to cap off the week like that."

Second-round leader Eugenio Chacarra of Spain posted a final-round 68 to finish alone in fourth place while England's Steve Lewton also made an eagle two at the last for a 67. Lewton finished the event in tied-fifth place with India's Karandeep Kochhar, who matched the winner's final-round score of 64 on Sunday.

Despite making an eagle and three birdies on Sunday, Ding had to settle for tied-seventh after a triple bogey on the 16th scuppered his title chances as he claimed the amateur prize. Also finishing in seventh place alongside Ding was pre-tournament favorite Andy Ogletree of the United States.

Former Ryder Cup player Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland completed his week with a one-under 71 that left him in joint 13th place.

In order to help with efforts to protect the environment and promote the concept of sustainable development, the Volvo China Open, founded in 1995, placed a special focus on "de-plasticization" during last week's tournament. This involved reducing the use of disposable plastic water bottles by placing drinking water points at different locations inside and outside the golf course. Organizers said they are committed to creating a "player and event sustainable" event.

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