HONG KONG (AP) — Australia’s Sam Brazel birdied the 18th hole to narrowly edge Rafa Cabrera Bello to capture the Hong Kong Open on Sunday, his first title on the European Tour.
Ranked 480th in the world, Brazel plays on the Asian Tour and had never had a top-10 European Tour finish before. The win gives him automatic entry into European Tour events for the next two years.
”I’d love to come over to Europe. It would be a great privilege,” an emotional Brazel said. ”It feels amazing. I’m speechless. What a win. I feel very privileged to be playing here first of all and then ecstatic to win. As far as where this takes me obviously, I might be playing a few more events in Europe next year and we’ll see where that takes me.”
Brazel and Cabrera Bello started the round level at 11 under, but the Australian sank three consecutive birdies on the back nine to take the lead, and then made his birdie putt on the final hole to nudge the Spaniard for the title.
”Rafa is a great fellow to play with. Plays very nicely. Got a great golf game I think he got unlucky a couple of times. I didn’t really feel like it was a battle between the two of us. I was just trying to have fun, I was trying to enjoy moment and enjoy the experience of it all,” Bazel said of his playing partner.
Brazel shot a 68 for an overall total of 13-under 267, while Cabrera Bello, who had a double bogey on the par-3 8th hole, shot a 69 and finished a stroke back.
”It’s just a little disappointing today. I managed to start good again but then struggle half way through the front nine. Battled back really hard again, same as yesterday but then Sam just played a fantastic 18th hole,” said Cabrera Bello.
Andrew Dodt of Australia shot a final-round 66 to tie for third with Tommy Fleetwood of England (68), two shots off the leader.
David Lipsky of the United States carded a 68 to finish in fourth place at 10 under for the tournament.
Defending champion and Rio Olympic Golf medalist Justin Rose tied for 36th spot with a final round 69 for a 278 overall.