Jeunghun Wang Claims Third Title in Just 27 Starts on European Tour
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
JEUNGHUN WANG, of South Korea, claimed his third victory in just 27 starts on the European Tour when he won the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club in dramatic fashion. Only Seve Ballesteros (20 years and 77 days) and Matteo Manassero (19 years and 206 days) have won three times at an earlier age than the 21-year-old Wang.
The 2016 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, who won the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco – also after a playoff – and the Mauritius Open last year, also joins 2009 US PGA Champion YE Yang as the most prolific Korean winner on the European Tour. The victory moves him into the top 50 in the world rankings, which also means he now qualifies for the World Golf Championship events and, if he can stay there, will receive an invitation to play in The Masters at Augusta in April.
But this victory came the hard way. Wang began the day with a three-shot lead but was caught coming down the stretch and finished up on 16 under par, tied with Jaco Van Zyl, of South Africa, and Joakim Lagergren.
Wang birdied the first and second holes on a blustery day that made low scoring difficult. He then reeled off a succession of pars before dropping his first shot of the day at the 14th. He birdied the 16th to go one ahead but another dropped shot at the 17th meant he had to birdie the par-five 18th to win. He left his second shot in a greenside bunker and faced a tricky shot of fully 60 yards. Wang splashed out to about 15 feet and left his putt on the lip.
???? Three different angles of the winning putt pic.twitter.com/CZSrrSs9Tn— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 29, 2017
Lagergren had shot through the field, thanks to five successive birdies in the middle of his round. He also birdied the 16th and signed for a superb round of 66. He then had to sit and watch to find out if anybody could catch him.
Van Zyl, looking for his maiden European Tour victory, was also unable to birdie the final hole, so the three men had to go back to the 18th tee to sort out a winner. All three men found the middle of the fairway with their drives. First to hit his second, Van Zyl found the heart of the green, but was fully 50 feet from the hole. Lagergren found the same bunker that had caught Wang's ball in regulation play, while Wang went at the flag and was desperately unlucky that his ball took a firm bounce on the green and finished beside the hospitality tents.
Lagergren came out of the sand to about 12 feet before Wang played a delightful pitch that rolled 30 inches past the hole. All eyes were now on Van Zyl, who knew that if he could hole his eagle putt then the title would be his, but the South African left the ball five feet short. Lagergren missed his birdie putt and knew that his race was run. Van Zyl struck what looked like a perfect putt, but the ball lipped out and he had to settle for a par.
All eyes were now on Wang, who smoothly stroked the ball into the hole for a birdie and victory number three.
Mike Lorenzo Vera, of France, will be kicking himself after throwing away the opportunity of winning. He got to 16 under par with his seventh birdie of the day on the 13th hole, but found the water from the tee on the 15th and dropped his first shot of the day before chipping in for an eagle on the 16th. However, he dropped another shot on the 17th and put his ball in the water again at the final hole for another bogey.It all added up to a 66, and at 15 under par he missed the playoff by a shot. South African Thomas Aiken also finished on 15 under after a bogey at the 17th.
There was yet another high finish for Rafa Cabrera Bello, whose 68 gave him a share of sixth place with another Spaniard, Nacho Elvira and Jordan Smith, of England. Smith, who won the Challenge Tour order of merit last season, has now finished third in the South African Open and sixth in Qatar - a remarkable start to his European Tour career.
Only Matteo Manassero (19) and Seve Ballesteros (20) won three European Tour titles at a younger age than Jeunghun Wang (21)— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 29, 2017
Wang was surprised to win.“I really didn't expect that I would win this week," he said. "I just keep trying to make birdies, trying to save par and finally won this week. I've got a lot of confidence from this week, and I learned from the other players about the course. And so I feel really good right now and just want to win another one.
“I was really nervous. It's really long day for me. I missed a lot of greens on the back nine. But my chipping was really good, so I saved every par. So I think that's the key that I won this week.”
Van Zyl will draw some consolation from what was another good week, but he couldn't hide his disappointment at once again failing to end his drought. "I had a good start which was really important. I had an unfortunate three putt on six which kind of put a damper on things a little bit," he said. "I just lingered along until I made a nice one on 13. Just unfortunately I hit a couple of good putts that just didn't go in. The back nine was playing really tough. The wind came up and it was really challenging. It's a good start to the season though, and a little bit more fireworks, so hopefully it continues.”
Lagergren tried to find the positives. "I can't complain about the second place, but there is obviously a lot of disappointment right now. I played really well today. I would have taken six under before the day, definitely. I played well, but lost in a playoff. I knew before we went to the tee box there in the play-off, you need to make birdie here to win it. I was hitting four iron down in that bunker, so it's a tough shot from there.”
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