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Wiratchant wins Senior tour opener in Sharjah

Beats Fowler and Dennis under floodlights after four play-off holes

Gulf News

Sharjah: Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant first edged out Australia’s Peter Fowler and then America’s Clark Dennis in a dramatic sudden death play-off lasting four holes to win the Shurooq Sharjah Senior Golf Masters — round one of the 20-stage European Tour seniors format, the Staysure Tour — at Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club on Saturday. 
“It was really difficult out there today to get the win so I’m so pleased I managed to get over the line and secure the opening event of the Staysure Tour season,” said Wiratchant. “The pin positions were really difficult today compared to the first two days so it was a real challenge out there. I had to be patient in the play-off as we were all hitting good shots every time we played the hole so I needed to keep my focus and wait for my chance. I just knew I had to get the win.”

Fowler, Wiratchant and Dennis were all tied at 12 under par at the end of regulation meaning a trip back up the 18th hole was required to find a winner. Fowler dropped out first after leaving his par putt short, then two more trips down the 18th saw two pars apiece for Dennis and Wiratchant, before Dennis overshot the fourth play-off shot to hand Wiratchant the victory under the floodlights.

Dennis almost chipped in for par to keep things going after his error but it wasn’t to be and last year’s Order of Merit winner was left to accept the runner-up spot as Wiratchant, who landed 10 feet from the hole to then tap home from inches for par, claimed the $63,750 winner’s cheque from the $425,000 event, making it two in a row for the 51-year-old, who also won the final event of last season in Mauritius.

“I have never played under floodlights before so that was a new challenge for me,” said the former Asian Tour player. “Hopefully, I can kick on from here and really concentrate on the year ahead. I look forward to returning to Sharjah next year to defend my title. This is a great start to my season.”

The final round was given added excitement with different pins used on each nine and it was Fowler, who started the day two behind Wiratchant and Dennis, who looked to have the momentum, playing the front nine in 33 blows after a birdie at the second and an eagle on the sixth — his third in as many days at the par five hole which was also played as the 15th.

Dennis had turbulent front nine of 36 with consecutive birdies on the third and fourth holes giving way to bogeys on five and seven. Wiratchant picked up a shot on the fourth and gave it away again on the ninth, meaning Fowler started the second nine with a one-stroke lead.

Dennis then dropped a further shot with a bogey at the 10th and when Fowler birdied the 13th he was three in front of the American and two ahead of the Thai. But a fascinating final four holes saw the pendulum swing back level with Dennis picking up shots on 15 and 18, Wiratchant making a gain on 15 while Fowler dropped his first shot of the day on 17 meaning spectators were treated to a truly dramatic conclusion.