: November 23, 2008 – The greatest finish in the history of the UBS Hong Kong Open saw Lin Wen Tang emerge triumphant from a three-way playoff on Sunday (November 23).
The Chinese Taipei player defeated Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari of Italy to claim the title in the 50th edition of the tournament.
Lin’s popular victory came after packed galleries at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling witnessed a finale of unbelievable drama.
After Molinari dropped out of the playoff on the first extra hole, Lin birdied the second extra hole to edge out teenager McIlroy.
Lin, 34, became the first Asian player to win the tournament since Korea’s Kang Wook Soon 10 years ago.
His success came as a huge relief after he missed a five-foot birdie putt at the last to win the tournament in regulation play.
“I can’t describe my feelings,” said an emotional Lin. “All I can do is use my smile to say thank you to you all.
“I’m very excited because I’ve been waiting to win a tournament like this for a long time.
“I waited eight years until 2006 to win my first Asian Tour title and now I’ve won my first European Tour title, so I’m very happy.
“I’ve always said that the trophy goes to the most well prepared player and I’ve been very well prepared this week.”
Lin, McIlroy and Molinari all finished on 15-under-par 265 after an enthralling final round in the co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour UBS Hong Kong Open.
Molinari, who shot a five-under 65, narrowly missed a birdie chance on the 18th that would have taken him to 16-under.
McIlroy also carded a 65, getting up and down for par at the last to join him in the playoff – and it became a three-way fight when Lin, who returned a 67, was wide with his birdie effort.
But the drama was only just beginning as fans were treated to a playoff highlighted by extraordinary recovery shots.
When the trio replayed the par-four 18th for the first time, Lin conjured an extraordinary approach shot from behind some trees and nailed the birdie putt.
McIlroy, too, birdied the hole while Molinari dropped out of the fight after he two-putted for par.
Lin and McIlroy returned to the 18th tee and this time it was McIlroy’s turn to produce an amazing approach shot out of the trees to the back edge of the green.
But Lin’s second shot was perfect, landing a foot from the pin, and when McIlroy’s birdie putt went wide, the Taiwanese tapped in for the biggest win of his career.
Asked about his astonishing shot out of the trees on the first playoff hole, when he used his wedge to fire the ball from a seemingly impossible position on to the green, Lin said: “I missed the drive and left myself a very, very tough shot out of the trees.
“But I had been working so hard for the past four days and I didn’t want to give up, so I went for it. And it was like help from the gods because I made it.”
Lin, who has previously won three times on the Asian Tour, collected a cheque for US$416,660 for his first European Tour victory.
It was McIlroy’s second playoff loss after he finished runner-up to Frenchman Jean-Fran?ois Lucquin at the European Masters in Switzerland in September.
But the rising Northern Irish star, only 19 years old, refused to be downhearted. “Lin made two threes in the playoff and you can’t beat that, to be honest,” he said.
“I thought I’d done enough at the first playoff hole and then on the second hole I had an incredible shot for my second shot, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s still been a great week for me, I’ve played really well. I couldn’t have done much more.”
It was the first playoff in the UBS Hong Kong Open since 1994 when South African David Frost beat Craig McClellan of the US.
The leading trio finished two strokes clear of Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal (67) and Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol (65) who both ended the tournament on 13-under 267.
Five players were a stroke further back at 12-under 268, including German veteran Bernhard Langer (69) and overnight leader Oliver Wilson (71).
England’s Wilson – eight times a runner-up on the European Tour – was still co-leader at 15-under before his challenge unravelled with three straight bogeys from the 15th.
Lin’s victory in the 50th UBS Hong Kong Open book-ended the historic tournament perfectly – the inaugural champion in 1959 was another Taiwanese player, Lu Liang Huan.
Until Lin’s triumph on Sunday, the last Taiwanese player to win at Fanling had been Hsieh Chin Sheng 20 years ago.