Wiratchant has the last laugh

Thai veteran edges Ramsay in play-off to emerge champion for the second time

Richie Ramsay inexplicably snatched defeat from the hands of victory as Thai veteran Thaworn Wiratchant scripted a stunning turnaround to annex the Hero Indian Open for the second time here on Sunday.

 Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant with the Indian Open trophy on Sunday. DH Photo/ Kishor Kumar Bolar

Leading the $1.25 million event right from the start until the final regulation hole, the Scotsman shockingly erred at the most inopportune time, two-putting from around two feet for a bogey and enter a play-off with Wiratchant after both had signed off at 14-under 270 at the Karnataka Golf Association.

The spectacular miss seemed to play on Ramsay’s mind as he pulled his tee shot to the extreme right on the first play-off hole -- par-4 18th hole – with the ball landing into a water hazard. Despite taken aback at the sudden turn of events, the 29-year-old, who shot three-under 68 in the final round, kept his cool, taking a penalty drop before pulling off a remarkable shot over the trees and the adjacent hut with the ball hitting the green and rolling onto the rough.

All this while, the 45-year-old Wiratchant, tried hard to maintain his composure after realising a 15th Asian Tour title has been nearly handed onto him in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Smiling and appearing confident, the Thai struck his second shot into the left greenside bunker as the crowd lapped up the late drama gleefully.

Dressed completely in black which he considers as his lucky colour, Wiratchant then chipped onto to within 10 feet from the cup while Ramsay raised visions of fightback with a fine chip to within eight feet. Wiratchant then bogeyed the hole to offer Ramsay a major lifeline but luck continued to elude the Scotsman as his putt lipped out.

Barring the final-hole choke, Ramsay did very little wrong on an action-packed final day as a host of title contenders shot low scores under the gloomy skies to keep the pressure on the Scotsman. Cool and calm, he always found a special shot to keep his nose ahead, giving the vast travelling contingent top quality golf they had desired to see for a long time.

His iron play and driving was top notch while he struggled with his short game on a few holes, he holed the ones when it mattered most to always stay ahead of the hunting pack. He got off to a great start with a superb 22-footer on the opening hole before nailing the ball within two feet on the third which he sunk easily for his second birdie.

He sunk a 12-footer on the fifth to go three-under before back-to-back bogeys on sixth and seventh pegged him back. However, he hauled himself back, picking up a stroke on the ninth to stay a stroke ahead of the fast approaching Panuphol Pittayarat, who was going great guns until then.

An eagle on the 11th helped him open a three-stroke advantage but with birdies drying up and Pittayarat and Wiratchant playing some beautiful golf, Ramsay was always in for a battle which he lost eventually with a rare error.

Wiratchant, who notched up his record 15th win on the Asian Tour and third of the season, showed once again why he can’t be counted out until the end. Starting the day two shots off the pace, the veteran fired in six birdies – 2nd, 8th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 18th – with his lone blemish coming on the third for a card of 66.

Indians come good

The Indian charge came a little late in the tournament with Shiv Kapur carding a 66 to sign off fourth at 272, two shots behind Wiratchant. Anirban Lahiri struck a 67 to finish tied fifth while last year’s runner-up Chiragh Kumar brought home a 68 to share the eighth spot. Local boy S Chikka­rangappa took home the best amateur award, totaling 281 to finish tied 26th.

Leading scores (after 72 holes, ‘A’ denotes amateur): 270: Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) (69, 68, 67, 66), Richie Ramsay (Sco) (66, 66, 70, 68). Wiratchant wins on first play-off hole. 271: Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) (67, 68, 69, 67); 272: Shiv Kapur (Ind) (67, 71, 68, 66); 274: Anirban Lahiri (Ind) (70, 71, 66, 67), Jaakko Makitalo (Fin) (67, 68, 68, 71), Arnond Vongvanij (Tha) ( 71, 67, 67, 69); 275: Peter Hanson (Swe) (70, 71, 68, 66), Chiragh Kumar (69, 71, 67, 68).
Select Indians: 277 (T12th): Jyoti Randhawa (72, 68, 67, 70); 280 (T22nd): Gaganjeet Bhullar (68, 69, 70, 73); 281 (T26th): Harendra P Gupta (69, 72, 71, 69), S Chikkarangappa (A) (72, 68, 67, 74); 282 (T29th): Shamim Khan (72, 70, 70, 70).

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