Too fit to quit: 'Reborn' Atthaphon wins Mercedes-Benz finale
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Atthaphon Prathummanee ended a frustrating 10-year wait to win his first significant title as a professional when he recorded victory Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Masters Indonesia.
LEADING FINAL-ROUND SCORES
273 - Atthaphon Prathummanee* (THA) 69 70 67 67, Namchok Tantipokakul (THA) 68 69 68 68
275 - Wisut Artjanawat (THA) 68 70 69 68
276 - Nicholas Fung (MAS) 69 66 70 71
277 - Antonio Lascuna (PHI) 68 65 72 72, Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 64 71 68 74
278 - Mohd Sukree Othman (MAS) 69 70 67 72
279 - Artemio Murakami (PHI) 68 73 68 70
281 - Ferdie Aunzo (PHI) 69 73 68 71
283 - Mohd Rashid Ismail (MAS) 74 67 69 73
284 - Rey Pagunsan (PHI) 73 74 68 69, Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 74 70 69 71
285 - Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 74 74 71 66, M. Sasidaran (MAS) 73 69 75 68, Anthony Fernando (PHI) 76 67 72 70, Mars Pucay (PHI) 72 71 68 74
*Atthaphon won sudden-death playoff at first extra hole
The 32-year-old beat fellow-Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul on the first playoff hole in the season-ending Tour Championship on the Mercedes-Benz Tour.
Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines finished joint fifth, which was enough to secure the tour’s Order of Merit title.
Atthaphon holed an 8-foot birdie putt to lift the trophy at Emeralda Golf and Country Club after Namchok mounted a late charge.
Playing in the penultimate group, Atthaphon birdied the par-4 18th for a 5-under 67 to finish the tournament at 15-under 273, giving him a three-stroke lead over Namchok, who was in the last pairing.
Atthaphon celebrated as if he had won, but Namchok promptly holed a pitch shot from 30 yards for eagle at the par-5 17th, then birdied the 18th.
When they returned to the 18th for the playoff, a poor tee shot by Namchok left him a difficult approach, which he hit to 40 feet. He nearly holed that putt before Atthaphon sank his.
Attaphon said the victory couldn’t have come at a better time. He said he nearly gave up golf after missing the cut in the Thailand Open on OneAsia in August.
“This is incredible. It’s like I have been reborn,” Atthaphon said. “I stopped playing for a month after the Thailand Open because I was so frustrated.”
Earlier this year, Atthaphon started tweaking his swing and his fitness. However, he saw little progress and was close to quitting. After taking a month off, he decided to give it another try.
“It has been a very difficult time for me, but I really think it is my fitness work that has made the big difference,” he said.
He lived in Malaysia until his early 20s and since turning professional in 2000 has had a few victories on the domestic circuits in Thailand and Malaysia.
Atthaphon also earns a place in the US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open in November.
Wisut Artjanawat of Thailand finished third. He fired 68 Saturday to finish two shots shy of the playoff. Nicholas Fung of Malaysia was a stroke further behind in fourth after closing with a 71.
Going in, Fung had a chance to overtake Pagunsan atop the Order of Merit. However, a poor finish with bogeys on Nos. 12, 14 and 16 made him settle for second place, finishing just US$77 behind Pagunsan.
“It’s a great relief to finish No. 1,’’ Pagunsan said. “It was close, but that is why I came here. It takes a lot of concentration to be able to stay in front, and I am proud of that.”
Fung, Wisut, Filipino Jay Bayron, 17-year-old Panuphol Pittayarat and Thanyakon Khrongpha, both of Thailand, also earned exemptions into the Barclays Singapore Open.
Mercedes-Benz contributed to this report.