Chile’s Felipe Aguilar won The Championship at Laguna National in dramatic fashion to end a long winless streak. Here are 5 Things you need to know from this week’s co-sanctioned event between the European and Asian Tours.
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1. FIREWORKS ON 18th: Felipe Aguilar had gone winless for six years and 76 days – or 166 tournaments – since his first European Tour victory, the 2008 Indonesian Open. He looked like he was coming up short in Singapore too, trailing Anders Hansen by four shots heading into the final round.
Out in 2-under-par 34, Aguilar would probably have been content to settle for a nice check. Then he caught fire. He birdied five of his first six holes of the back nine. He added a further birdie on the par-3, 17th to move to 19-under-par, two shots behind Hansen. Then the real fireworks happened.
Aguilar holed his second shot to the final hole with a pitching wedge from 142 yards. It made European Tour history. He’s the first player to win by holing his second shot on a par-4 finishing hole.
It meant the Chilean had come home in 28 shots for a 10-under-par 62.
“On the 17th green I told my caddie, ‘If I make a birdie on 18, I might put some pressure on the leader,’ and he said, ‘You might make two,’ ” Aguilar said. “I looked at him and said, ‘The way I’m hitting the ball, I might make two,’ and I did. It’s very, very special.”
The 39-year-old won by a shot over Hansen and David Lipsky of the United States to earn the €180,521 first-place check.
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2. HARD-LUCK HANSEN: Anders Hansen was looking for his fourth European Tour win, and probably felt he would be involved in a playoff to try to nail that victory. Anyone who shoots a final round of 67 after holding the 54-hole lead would normally expect to be lifting the trophy. Instead the Dane was left struggling to understand what happened.
“It’s just one of those days,” Hansen said. “He had a good day, and played well obviously. I thought I played well too. If you go out last group and shoot 67 and finish minus-21, you think you’re in with a chance but you come up short. That’s just life.
“It’s just really, really, disappointing. To finish two-two on 17 and the 18 and hole your second shot, I don’t know what to say.”
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3. LIPSKY MATURING NICELY: Los Angeles native David Lipsky has settled well into Asian Tour life. His €94,079 check for joint second place moved him to third on the Asian Tour order of merit.
Lipsky is playing in Asia on the advice of Charlie Wi. The Los Angeles native won the 2012 Asian Tour School and then won that year’s Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic. He finished 11th on the Asian Tour money list in his rookie season, but slipped to 70th last year. He’s looking to improve on that this season.
“I played really well this week,” Lipsky said. “I only had four bogeys in four rounds and 23 birdies and one eagle in total. I’ll take that any week for sure. My game is in good shape now and I’m playing very well. I definitely gained a lot of experience from this week.”
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4. DOUGHERTY MAKES CUT: England’s Nick Dougherty showed a welcome return to form by making the cut. The three-time European Tour winner played on a sponsor’s invite and returned scores of 69, 70, 73 and 71 for a 5-under total of 283 and joint 54th place.
Finishing 17 shots off the lead might not sound like a big deal. Considering where Dougherty’s been these last few years, it’s a huge achievement.
The Englishman lost his card in 2011 and has been struggling to regain it ever since. He’s spent the last two years on the Challenge Tour, where he’s struggled to break 80. He missed the cut in all six European Tour events he was lucky enough to play in last year, posting a stroke average of 77.45.
Just playing all four rounds in Asia will feel like a huge victory.
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5. THE TOUR RETURNS HOME: Singapore was the last Asian stop for the European Tour before it returns to more traditional haunts. The Madeira Island Open is the next European Tour stop. The circus won’t be back in the Far East until October and the BMW Masters.