Solid Namchok finds winning joy in Sabah

SATURDAY RELEASE – JANUARY 9, 2016

Kota Kinabalu [SABAH]: Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul displayed nerves of steel to claim an emotional victory at the Warisan Harta Sabah Masters on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Chonburi native nursed his overnight advantage to close with a second successive even-par 71 at the Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club.

Namchok totalled seven-under 277 to finish two strokes clear of American Casey O’Toole, who made a final round charge with a solid 68.

After being in contention for much of the tournament, youngster Nirun Sae-ueng dropped costly shots in the closing stages to return with a poor 74, settling for joint third alongside fellow Thai Piya Swangarunporn (71) on 282.

Kemarol Baharin rounded off his campaign as the top-placed local in the US$100,000 tournament jointly sanctioned by the ASEAN PGA Tour and Asian Development Tour, finishing sole seventh on one-over 285.

But the spotlight was clearly on Namchok, whose fourth win on the ASEAN PGA Tour not only ended a two-year title drought but propelled him to second on the Order of Merit race, securing him a start at the SMBC Singapore Open at the end of this month.

“I’m really relieved. It has been a really long time since I picked up a win and I felt a little nervous at the start of the round. My ball-striking was really good today but my putting let me down and I left a lot of birdies out there.

“I didn’t think even-par would be enough to win because my flight mates (O’Toole and Nirun) gave me a good fight but I stayed solid under pressure to lift the title,” said Namchok, who was flawless except for a bogey on 14.

He noted that his sharp short game was crucial to his victory, especially when he converted a delightful chip-in to save par at the 15th.

“My short game really came through this week. On the 15th, I knew I needed to pull off something really special to preserve my two-shot cushion after dropping the bogey on the previous hole. I managed to get clean contact with the ball and as it sank into the hole, I knew the win was mine to claim,” adding that his post-season swing and fitness regime is beginning to pay dividends.

“I lost my card on the Japan Golf Tour last year and this win is important because it is a real morale-booster. Getting into the SMBC Singapore Open and playing well there will hopefully open more doors for me in 2016,” shared the 2009 ASEAN PGA Tour Order of Merit champion.

Reigning ADT money list winner O’Toole was delighted with his overall performance despite failing to take advantage of a brilliant start.

Five off the lead at the start of the day, he notched four birdies on the front nine to move within two shots of Namchok at the turn.

But back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th derailed O’Toole’s title hopes with his only other gain on the 16th proving a late consolation.

“I’m happy with my round because I got off to the exact start I needed to if I was going to have chance. Right after the turn, I conceded two really bad bogeys and that made it really hard for me.

“I knew that if I threw in a couple of birdies, I could get back in it but credit to Namchok, his short game was so good that even when he missed a shot, he chipped the next one in,” said the Thailand-based O’Toole.

Leading final results (Par-71)

Malaysian unless stated

277 – Namchok Tantipokhakul (THA) 65-70-71-71
279 – Casey O’Toole (USA) 70-71-70-68
282 – Piya Swangarunporn (THA) 71-69-71-71, Nirun Sae-ueng (THA) 68-70-70-74
283 – Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA) 75-71-68-69
284 – Antonio Lascuna Jr (PHI) 71-74-69-70
285 – Kemarol Baharin 71-69-71-74
286 – Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 71-72-72-71
287 – Sutijet Kooratanapisan (THA) 76-72-72-67, Jay Bayron (PHI) 71-73-72-71
288 – Cylde Mondilla (PHI) 78-71-69-70, Lam Yu Shuen 77-65-74-72, David Gleeson (AUS) 73-75-74-66, Mitchell Slorach (SIN) 70-72-74-72, Rufino Bayron (PHI) 74-70-70-74