Sam Brazel produced a stunning approach shot to the final hole to set up the brilliant birdie which defeated Rafa Cabrera Bello by one shot and secured his first European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Australian began the week ranked 480th in the Official World Golf Ranking but entered the final day at Hong Kong Golf Club tied at the top of the leaderboard alongside Ryder Cup star Cabrera Bello in just his 17th European Tour appearance. At one point there were six players in a tie for the lead on the back nine but Brazel held off a group with 11 European Tour titles between them, and an eight-foot putt on the last handed him a closing 68 and a 13-under-par total.
The ecstatic champion said: “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing good but it’s been a bit of a struggle with the old irons but I got set up with a new set of clubs, and it’s all sort of turned around. This is the fruit. I wouldn’t say I got the shot into the last straight out of the middle but I’m pretty stoked where it finished, I’ll tell you.
“I think I still had some nerves on the first tee today, but I settled in pretty quickly today. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday. I had a great playing partner in Rafa. I was stoked to play with him for the last two days. It was a thrill to be out there the last few days and I hope that continues and I have a lot more days like this in the future. I am really looking forward to getting over to Europe and playing on the European Tour. It will be a great privilege.”
Brazel was visibly emotional as he lifted the trophy and the 37-year-old credited a new set of clubs with helping get him over the line. The Australian is expected to move into the top 150 in the world when the rankings are published on Monday.
Cabrera Bello, who had been in superb form all week, had birded the 16th and 17th to set up a grandstand finish down the last but he could only make a par and finish 12-under as Brazel’s incredible approach set up just the second birdie of the day on the closing hole.
The 32-year-old said: “If you look at the week overall, it has been a great week, finishing second. Just a little disappointed today. I managed to start good again but then struggled halfway through the front nine. I battled back really hard again, same as yesterday. But then Sam just played a fantastic 18th hole.”
“Obviously I am still proud of the performance. I messed up a little obviously on seven and eight but I stayed calm and waited for my chances. I gave myself lots of opportunities. Some didn’t fall, but at the end, 16 and 17, they were two great putts that did go in. The one on 18th, almost, as well. In the end, it’s a good week. It’s just a bitter taste finishing runner-up.”
Australian Andrew Dodt and England’s Tommy Fleetwood were then at 11 under, a shot clear of American David Lipsky and two ahead of Masters Champion Danny Willett.
The 2016 UBS Hong Kong Open saw a total attendance of 46,728 for the week, with 20,221 fans passing through the gates of Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on free Thursday and Friday.