Lara wins the Hong Kong Open

Published on Nov 19, 2006 09:29 PM IST

Indian golfers Jeev Milkha Singh (66) and Jyoti Randhawa (66) share the third place.

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HT Image
None | ByAssociated Press, Hong Kong

Jose Manuel Lara led from start to finish to win the Hong Kong Open with a closing round 1-under 69 on Sunday that edged Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines by one stroke.

Lara, the third Spaniard to win the tournament in the past five years, shot three birdies against two bogeys for a 15-under 265 to capture his first victory on the European Tour.

Pagunsan finished with three birdies and two bogeys for a final round 68 and 266 overall.

Lara was ecstatic to finally notch a win. The $2 million (euro1.57 million) Hong Kong Open is jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.

"You can't believe how many people say to me every week, 'When are you going to win?"' Lara said. "Now I win and everything is good."

Finishing three strokes back in third place was Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (67), and Indian golfers Jeev Milkha Singh (66) and Jyoti Randhawa (66), who shared the lead with Lara after the first round.

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez shot a 2-under 68 to share fourth place with Denmark's Soren Kjelsdsen, who had a 67 for a total 11-under 269. Jiminez, who won the event in 2004, had a chance to move into third place, but he bogeyed the 18th, when his short putt lipped out.

The first Spaniard to win the tournament was Jose Maria Olazabal in 2001.

Lara began the day with a two-stroke edge over Pagunsan, who turned professional in the past year and won his first tournament at the 2006 Country Club Invitational in the Philippines. Pagunsan took the lead for the first time on the 11th hole, which he birdied by hitting out of the rough and landing about two feet from the hole for an easy putt.

Lara birdied the par-5 13th to tie it up before taking the lead for good on the par-4 16, which he birdied and Pagunsan bogeyed. The Filipino seemed unphased by the pressure of leading, and he spent much of the day smiling and laughing between strokes. Even bogeys made him giggle.

"I'm just a human, everyone feels the pressure. But I can deal with the pressure, smiling, laughing. I just hold it," he said. "After the 14th hole I thought I was going to win, but maybe this tournament wasn't mine. It was for Lara."

Defending champion Colin Montgomerie, looking for his first tournament win of the year, finished 10 strokes off the lead after shooting his second consecutive even-par 70.

After handing in his scorecard, the Scottish Ryder Cup star, who has a reputation for being grumpy, declined to sign autographs for a crowd of children waiting for him.

"I'm tired. I'm looking forward to finishing the year," he told reporters. "I can't win this year, not playing well enough." The past four days were also miserable for New Zealand's Michael Campbell, who said a sore ankle hampered him in the early rounds. The 2005 U.S. Open champion finished a long way off the lead after shooting a five-over par 75 for a 3-over 283.

China's Liang Wenchong used his nine irons to sink a hole-in-one at the 140-yard (128-meter) 12th hole. Liang, who was awarded by the sponsors a gold bar worth $20,000 (euro15,656.80) for his effort, also hit a hole-in-one at the 2002 TCL Classic in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.

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