Himmat Rai claims maiden title

Indian holds nerve in thrilling five-way play-off for 'sweet victory'

The 24-year-old Rai went the distance with Filipino Elmer Salvador at the Orchid Country Club after Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk, South African Tjaart Van Der Walt and Brazilian Adilson Da Silva bowed out after the second play-off hole.

All five players finished tied on nine-under 271 in regulation play, the most players in a play-off in Asian Tour history.

It was a toe-to-toe battle between the last two men standing before Rai nailed the winning putt in fading light to earn $47,550 and also a priceless two-year exemption on the Asian Tour.

“I can’t believe that I have pulled it off. I was just trying to improve my score (as he was four behind on the back nine) and the play-off was splendid. I stuck to my routine and thoroughly pleased with my finish. It is very sweet and special,” said Rai.

The talented Indian, who signed off with a one-over 71, double bogeyed the 13th hole to fall back on the leaderboard but charged home with courageous birdies on 15th and 16th while long time pacesetter Da Silva dropped a costly double bogey on the 15th hole.

The play-offs was riveting with Salvador holing a long birdie putt on the second extra hole and pulling off wonderful shots before losing. “I just knew I had to close it soon before things got out of hand (with the darkness). I gave myself a good chance. That putt, sometimes when you are under pressure, you tend to rush it but I thought if I don’t close it, the game would go otherwise. I hit a solid putt. I was lucky it went in,” said the delighted Rai.

The 41-year-old Salvador, who closed with a final-round 66, was the surprise package as he hung in the play-off and made a 50-foot birdie on the second extra hole which kept him in the tournament.

He took his cap off to India’s newest champion. “I didn’t expect Himmat to hole his putt at the last hole as it was a long one,” said Salvador, who took home the runner-up’s cheque of $19,485. The ISPS Handa Singapore Classic donated $100,000 to the relief and rebuilding efforts in Japan following the tsunami tragedies earlier this year.

Anirban Lahiri had the next best finish among the Indians who made the cut. He ended the week in tied 31st at one-under 279. Abhishek Jha, Vinod Kumar and Ashok Kumar were tied 42nd at one-over 281 while Sujjan Singh was placed tied 47th at two-over 282.

This is the fourth international victory achieved by an Indian golfer this year. Earlier in the year, Gaganjeet Bhullar won the Gujarat Kensville Challenge (European Challenge Tour), SSP Chowrasia triumphed at the Avantha Masters (European Tour) and Anirban Lahiri captured the Panasonic Open (Asian Tour) title.

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