Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul won the PGTI year-ending championship at the RCGC in a dream run that never saw him slip from pole position throughout the four rounds before he sealed the trophy with a comfortable three-shot margin on Sunday. With that, he became the first foreigner to win the prestigious year-ending meet.
The overnight leader, Pariya shot a one-under on Sunday but won thanks to his incredible form in the previous three rounds. Rashid Khan started two shots behind Pariya but his title hopes evaporated in early when he dropped two double-bogeys and a bogey on the first seven holes. Pariya, on the other hand, made a steady start as he birdied the first hole for the fourth successive day with a 30-feet conversion. With birdies on the second and sixth holes, first from 20 feet and the second from 40 feet, the Thai took a seven-shot lead over Khan in no time.
Such was his overall dominance that this was probably the first time in the brief history of the Tour Championship at the RCGC that the final round been this sedate. The only talking point by noon was the race for the Order of Merit which Rashid won by impressing with birdies in the 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th holes. Before that it almost seemed Shamim Khan had bagged the Order of Merit with a nine-under --- equaling the course record set by Rashid, Arjun Atwal and Edwart Fraytt --- but Rashid pipped him to the spot with a final flourish. “I thought I had put pressure on myself in the early stages of today’s round by expecting a bit too much. But I came back well later on. The 10-feet birdie conversion on the 17th was crucial in keeping me ahead in the race and also to seal the runner-up spot,” said Rashid later.
Pariya experienced some trouble too with three bogeys in the 8th, 10th and 15th holes but his lead was still big enough for others to play catch-up. His chip on the final hole hit the flag stick to set up a comfortable two-foot par putt that highlighted one of the most consistent performances in the PGTI circuit in recent years.
“I again had a great start to the day with three birdies on the first six holes. That gave me a good cushion at the top. However, I was a little rusty and never really felt very comfortable despite the healthy lead,” said Pariya after dedicating the win to the recently deceased Thailand monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “When I saw the score on the back-nine, I realised that Gaganjeet (Bhullar) was getting close. But I told myself to relax and play conservative golf as anyone who wanted to catch up with me would have to shoot a really low score. Fortunately no one went deep today,” he said.
Leaderboard (round 4, par 72): 273 Pariya Junhasavasdikul 66-68-68-71; 276 Rashid Khan 70-64-70-72; 278 Shamim Khan 70-73-72-63, Gaganjeet Bhullar 71-68-70-69, SSP Chawrasia 70-68-69-71; 279 Jyoti Randhawa 70-69-74-66.