Taiwan's Lin Wen-tang birdied the second playoff hole to edge out Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari in a dramatic climax to the Hong Kong Open, becoming the event's first Asian winner in 10 years.
|Lin celebrates with his caddy [AFP]
The three players had finished the co-sanctioned tournament on 15 under and Italy's Molinari was the first to be eliminated on the opening extra hole when he could manage only a par-four on the 18th before a packed gallery.
Lin appeared to blow his chances on the same hole when he pulled a drive into the rough.
Threading the needle
But he nailed an audacious 150-yard wedge shot through a tiny gap in the trees to land his approach to within six feet of the pin and made a birdie to force a second-hole playoff with Northern Ireland's McIlroy.
"At first I didn't know what to do. But I told myself to do my best to hit this shot towards the green and maybe God helped me, because I made it," Lin said on Sunday.
On the next hole, the 18th again, McIlroy scuffed his drive into the left rough, while Lin drove straight down the fairway and chipped to within inches of the cup to set up his biggest victory.
The last Asian to win the Hong Kong Open was South Korea's Kang Wook-soon in 1998.
Lin had earlier squandered a chance to win the tournament in regulation play, missing a short birdie putt on the 18th after a brilliant approach left him a few feet short of the cup.
The 34-year-old, who turned professional in 1996, is one of the island's top golfers with three Asian Tour victories under his belt.
Overnight leader Oliver Wilson again failed to live up to his promise and clinch a first professional win, the Briton fading over the back nine to finish a disappointing sixth.
Wilson, who has finished second eight times, started strongly with a birdie on the first hole but his putting let him down as he notched up a string of 11 pars and three late bogeys.
Germany's Bernhard Langer, who was a contender to become the European Tour's oldest champion at 51, failed to maintain his sizzling earlier form, finishing three shots off the pace at 12 under overall.
Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol and Spain's Pablo Larrazabal finished at 13 under, while the Asian Tour's top golfer Jeev Milkha Singh of India was 11 under.
The 19-year-old McIlroy gave a taste of his potential with some inspired golf and showed maturity beyond his years against a field packed with experienced professionals.
"As long as I can keep putting myself in these positions and feeling the nerves and the adrenaline, I'll know I'm doing things right," McIlroy said.