Perth (Australia) (AFP) – Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat rode his luck to claim the $1.75 million Handa World Super 6 title in Perth on Sunday.
The unique tournament saw the top 24 players after the third round compete in matchplay on Sunday to decide the winner.
Aphibarnrat, 28, who was the last qualifier, prevailed in the final against Australian battler James Nitties.
The world number 53 had never seen the course before his first round on Thursday and had arrived in Perth only late the day before. He admitted his 10th tournament win was an unlikely result.
“I’m the last guy in the top 24 and I think I was the last guy to arrive this week as well,” he said.
Nitties had not won since 2015 and was desperate to gain his European Tour card with a victory.
He won the first hole in the six-hole final but went off the tee on the third, allowing Aphibarnrat to square the match.
The Thai then produced a stunning drive on the fourth to set up an eagle putt from around three metres, which he sank to take the lead.
Another perfect drive by Aphibarnrat on the fifth set up a birdie putt, which he coolly sank to beat Nitties 2 and 1.
It was the Thai’s fourth win on the European tour, and came after he played a marathon 35 holes on the final day to win five matches.
Aphibarnrat had looked on the verge of elimination several times over the weekend and was the last player to progress during Saturday’s playoff to get into the final 24.
He was behind Australian Lucas Herbert with one hole to play in the semi-final but the Victorian narrowly missed a three-metre putt which would have won the match.
The first playoff hole saw the Thai almost notch a hole-in-one with an impeccable tee shot that set up a simple birdie for victory.
Local amateur Min Woo Lee set a cracking early pace in the matchplay rounds, shooting birdies on 10 of his first 11 holes. He knocked out Japan’s Satashi Kodaira (3 and 1) and top qualifier Prom Meesawat (2 up) to advance impressively to the final eight.
Thailand’s Meesawat had won the qualifying stage by two strokes, with the top eight seeds in the final 24 earning a bye in the first round of matchplay.
He was chasing a tournament win to secure his European Tour card but could not get past his first opponent.
Lee was looking the player to beat after two matches but came undone in the quarter-finals as a wayward shot out of the bunker on the fourth hole handed England’s Sam Horsfield a 3 and 2 win.
The Florida-based Horsfield fell to Nitties in the semi-final.