Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to beat Eduardo Molinari by a stroke and win a Malaysian Open shortened to 54 holes after constant rain interruptions.
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Kiradech shot five birdies against four bogeys at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club for a three-round total of 203 in the event co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours. Molinari had a 67, one stroke ahead of Denmark’s Anders Hansen, who shot a 66 for a 205 total.
Masters winner Charl Schwartzel (71) and Victor Dubuisson (70) of France shared fourth place, three strokes off the lead.
After thunderstorms shortened play on each of the first three days, organizers announced Saturday that the tournament would be decided over three rounds. Play was suspended again Sunday for more than two hours because of rain.
”This means a lot to me,” said Kiradech, the fifth first-time winner on the European Tour this season. ”I have to thank my family, my mum and my dad for all their support.”
The 23-year-old started the day 11 under with 16 holes to complete in his third and final round. He faced a strong early challenge from three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland but he held his nerve to claim the biggest win of his career.
Kiradech reached the turn in 34, just a stroke ahead of Harrington, who bagged an eagle and three birdies to be out in 31, but the Irishman faded, dropping strokes at three successive holes from the 12th to slip down into a share of sixth place on 207.
Kiradech birdied the long third after a chip to 3 feet. He then followed that with a curling 15-foot eagle putt at the fifth. He three-putted the seventh for bogey after running his birdie putt 12 feet past the hole, and dropped another shot at the 12th after chipping 8 feet past.
An approach to 3 feet at the 14th put him one ahead of clubhouse leader Molinari, who had closed with a 67, shortly before play was suspended for almost two hours.
His first shot back was a glorious approach to the 16th, and after knocking in the birdie putt from short range he rescued par from 10 feet at the 17th before scrambling a bogey at the last.
Kiradech had led by one after a first round 65 and by two after adding a 68 in the first two days that were badly disrupted by the weather.
Molinari, who had made his first cut since returning from a lengthy wrist injury, shot a bogey-free 67, with birdies at Nos. 3, 5, 6, 14 and 16.
”It’s mixed emotions because I’m very happy to have a good week for the first time in a long time,” he said. ”The swing changes are starting to pay off, which is surprising, because I thought it would take a lot longer.
”I’m disappointed because I had a lot of chances on the back nine. The 18th is only the second fairway I missed all day, which is very disappointing. I felt if I birdied the last I might have won outright because it puts a lot of pressure on the guy coming up behind.”
Denmark’s Anders Hansen finished third after a joint best-of-the-day 66, with last week’s winner of the Avanthan Masters in India, Thomas Aitken, who shared 11th place, at 208.