Thursday 21 September 2017

Brazel holds nerve to seal first European Tour triumph

Australian journeyman Sam Brazel. Photo: Paul Lakatos/AFP/Getty Images
Australian journeyman Sam Brazel. Photo: Paul Lakatos/AFP/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Australian journeyman Sam Brazel prevailed in a tense final hole shoot-out with Rafa Cabrera-Bello to win the Hong Kong Open by a stroke and capture his first European Tour title.

The 480th-ranked Brazel struck a sublime approach shot from 175 yards to within eight feet of the flag and calmly rolled in the winning birdie after his Spanish rival missed a longer putt by inches on a glorious afternoon at Fanling.

Ireland's Paul Dunne, who was five shots off the lead overnight, carded a three-over-par 73 to finish in a tie for 29th.

Doused with champagne and mobbed by his caddy and friends, Brazel's victory in the co-sanctioned event earned the 37-year-old €311,843 and a two-year exemption on the Tour.

Despite never finishing higher than fourth on the Asian Tour, Brazel was a model of composure as he upstaged a host of marquee names and saved his best golf for last.

"It wouldn't say I got it out of the middle but I'm pretty stoked where it finished, I tell you," he said of his stunning six-iron approach on the 18th.

"It's been a long time coming but," added an overwhelmed Brazel, cradling the trophy after shooting a two-under-par 68 to finish with a 13-under total of 267. I'd love to come over to Europe - it'd be a great privilege."

Fellow Australian Andrew Dodt shared third place with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood on 11-under, while Masters champion Danny Willett shot a final round 66 to finish sixth.

Dropped

Willett had come into round four six shots behind but five birdies and no dropped shots meant he held the lead on the final afternoon before a bogey on the 17th.

That dropped shot left six players in a tie for top spot.

A hat-trick of birdies from the 11th got Brazel to 12 under and, when Cabrera-Bello birdied the 16th and 17th to join him, it was all set to come down the last.

The Spaniard is no stranger to playing under severe pressure, winning 2.5 points from three matches for Europe in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National earlier this year, but it was Brazel who kept his cool here.

"I was very lucky," he added. "That wasn't the greatest second shot in there but it ended up good and the rest is history.

"It was a thrill to be out there the last few days. I hope that continues. It's been a long time coming."

Cabrera-Bello's hopes of a first European title in four years appeared bleak early after he dropped three strokes between the seventh and eighth holes, but he dug deep with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to reel in Brazel.

Dodt also grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on the par-four 17th but rued a wayward tee shot on the last that left him with a long par putt he was unable to hole.

Former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose shot 69 to finish joint 36th on two-under, while Ian Poulter capped a forgettable week with a 74 that left him five-over for the tournament.

Irish Independent

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