Sweden's Kinhult Wins Enthralling British Masters at Hillside
THEY turned out in their thousands at Hillside to see if local boy and tournament host Tommy Fleetwood could produce the dream finish and win the British Masters on his home soil. They boy “done good” but in the end he had to settle for a share of eighth place as Marcus Kinhult secured his maiden European Tour title after producing a birdie-birdie finish to win by a single shot.
Fleetwood had a poor day, finishing with a 73 on a course he knows like the back of his hand, but he has the consolation of knowing that he was then heading to the airport to get on a plane and head for Bethpage Black, near New York, where he will start as one of the favourites to win this week’s US PGA Championship. But he and the rest of the field had to give best to Kinhult, who clinched a a victory that surprised even him.
Kinhult said: "I've been dreaming about this for such a long time and to finally do it is sort of amazing. It was so close all day between us. It was a bit like a match play between us - and then Bob [Robert MacIntyre] and Eddie [defending champion Eddie Peperell] played well on the back nine today. They were up there, as well. But it was nice to play with Matt [Wallace]. He's a great guy and a good competitor. So yeah, it was good fun. This is a very prestigious event and a nice little trophy to have. To get it as my first win is special."
Kinhult, Wallace, Pepperell and MacIntyre were locked together at 15 under par when the final group containing overnight leaders Kinhult and Wallace stood on the 18th tee. With Pepperell and MacIntyre watching on after the conclusion of their rounds, Kinhult rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the last to sign for a final-round 70 and make his European Tour breakthrough. Wallace finished in a tie for second place alongside Pepperell and MacIntyre after narrowly missing his 15 foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Scot Richie Ramsay was alone in fifth on 12 under after carding a closing birdie, while Englishmen Paul Waring and Jordan Smith were in joint sixth on 11 under.
This victory came from nowhere. Kinhult has made the cut just twice in his first eight events of the campaign before this week.
But the Swede loves this part of the world, having won the Lytham Trophy as an amateur in 2015. And he did so again on the opening three days, posting scores of 65, 69 and 68 to head into the final round alongside Wallace at the top of the leaderboard.
Kinhult found himself in the lead on his own after Wallace failed to get up and down from a bunker at the first. And after making his first birdie of the day at the second to move to 15 under par, Kinhult safely parred his way to the turn to stay one ahead of Wallace with nine holes left to play.
But the 29-year-old joined Kinhult at the top of the leaderboard when he began the back nine with a 15 foot uphill birdie putt at the 10th to get to 15 under, and the pair remained neck and neck after they both recorded birdies at the long 11th. However, Wallace dropped out of the lead after failing to save par from five feet on the 12th green.
Kinhult dropped his first shot of the day after a three putt at the 15th, handing Wallace a share of the lead once again. Defending champion Pepperell joined the leaders on 15 under after tapping in his close range birdie putt at the 17th, and when Kinhult missed a par putt on the 16th green, it was the two Englishmen who shared the lead.
But Kinhult hauled himself level with a 10-foot birdie at the 17th to join Pepperell, Wallace and MacIntyre - who finished eagle-birdie - on 15 under.
After a remarkable approach shot into the 18th, Kinhult duly converted from eight feet to claim his first win.
Pepperell, who will be joining Fleetwood at Bethpage, said: "It was a good round. Very steady, really. I only hit a couple of bad shots but very steady. The whole week, I only made two bogeys actually, which for me is remarkable."
Although disappointed at failing to win the tournament, Fleetwood paid tribute to the local fans. “It’s been very, very special for a number of reasons,” he said. “I would have loved to have played a bit better and given the fans a little more to cheer but the number one thing I wanted when given the opportunity to host was to bring it here to Southport. I knew it would be great event but this has exceeded all expectations.
“I am so grateful for everyone involved, for working at the event, to volunteering, to coming out to watch - I am so, so grateful. It has been a sell-out crowd, so many families, so many kids and it has been great to and play in front of them all Hopefully we have done a little bit in growing the game.”
Among the initiatives launched this week at Hillside Golf Club was the Tommy Fleetwood Academy to introduce more youngsters to the game. “I know I was the face of the event and the academy, our academy, but none of it's about me,” he said. "This was all about bringing a tournament to everybody in the northwest that I see all the time when I go home and everything. And the academy is the same. I want kids to have a chance to enjoy the game and I want them to learn and play. I was the face of the event and I had the opportunity to do something special and bring it here, but it's about everyone else and everyone else did a great job.”
South Korea's Sung Kang claimed his first PGA Tour victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas. The 31-year-old, who equalled the course record of 61 in the second round, had to complete 27 holes on the last day owing to weather delays. He finished on 23 under while runner-up Scott Piercy of the United States ended the tournament without making a bogey.
Brooks Koepka, who will seek to defend his US PGA Championship title this week, was fourth on 20 under.
"These guys are unbelievable," said Kang. "The win feels amazing." He had to return to the course to play nine holes to complete his third round but it was not until the back nine in the final round that Kang was able to put daylight between himself and playing partners Matt Every and Scott Piercy to win his first PGA Tour event in 159 starts, shooting a 67 to win by two. It moves Kang to 21st in the FedExCup standings. “It’s a dream come true,” said Kang, who lives in Coppell, Texas, about 30 minutes from Trinity Forest. “When I just started playing golf, I really dream about this, winning PGA TOUR event and it finally happened.”
Kang set up his victory after tying the course record with a 61 on Friday. Two years ago, he shot a second-round 63 that tied the course record at the Golf Club of Houston and gave him a six-shot lead. But he shot 71-72 that weekend. Kang started the back nine of his third round with three birdies in his first five holes, leading to a 68 that gave him a three-shot lead over Every and five ahead of Piercy and Koepka.
Once the leaders teed off in the final round, it didn’t take long for Kang to be caught. Piercy birdied six of his first eight holes while Every was four under on his first six holes. Meanwhile, Kang was even par on his first seven holes and lost the lead. But not for long. He rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the eighth, nearly holed his approach shot at the ninth, then birdied the 10th with a 14-footer to reclaim the lead.
A poor tee shot at the par-three 12th left him in thick rough, and he hacked out into a greenside bunker. But he bounced back from that bogey, starting with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 14th and a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-four 15th. When Every bogeyed, Kang led by two.
“I knew that was going to be the most important putt for this week,” Kang said. “I knew that if I holed it then it would probably will give me the trophy. I really focused. I just saw the picture and it went in.”
If there were any doubts, Kang put them to bad at the 16th. He and Every both had approach shots of less than 100 yards from the same side of the fairway. Kang stuck his to seven feet, setting up his third straight birdie; Every had to settle for a par.
Every, who has not won since 2015, paid tribute to the new champion, with whom he played all 72 holes. “Sung played really good,” Every said. “It would have been tough to beat him.”
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