Aguilar kisses goodbye to six-year drought

SINGAPORE - With The Championship trophy on the line, Felipe Aguilar and his long-time caddie Omar Peralta made a curious choice on Laguna National's par-four 18th yesterday.

Some 140 yards away from the pin and with little wind, it was set up nicely for a nine-iron.

But after intense discussion with his trusty deputy - an ex-pro himself - the Chilean golfer decided instead to attack with a pitching wedge.

Five seconds and three bounces later, the ball dropped into the cup for an eagle. Cue thunderous cheers from the gallery and looks of pure disbelief mixed with joy from the South American duo.

"The best shot of my life - well, it's the best because I won a tournament because of it," a gleeful Aguilar reflected later.

As significant as the $314,000 winner's cheque was the fact that the triumph also ended a six-year drought dotted with painful play-off losses and bridesmaid finishes.

"I never was able to get the round going on the last day so it is nice to finally do it," said the Santiago resident, who last won on the European Tour at the 2008 Indonesia Open.

"You keep plugging away for a day like today, where luck and the greens are on your side."

The magical shot on the Masters course capped a superlative round of 10-under 62 for a 266 total. But it did not win him the trophy immediately as overnight co-leader Anders Hansen was three flights behind.

Still, word of Aguilar's effort spread across the course and this seemed to affect the Dane who had been three strokes ahead at the turn.

Seemingly in cruise control, the three-time European Tour winner inexplicably drove the ball into a bunker on the expansive par-four 16th.

He had to settle for a costly bogey, eventually signing for a 67 to share second spot with American David Lipsky (65), one stroke adrift of Aguilar.

"It's just really, really disappointing," said a glum Hansen, who finished third at the 2011 PGA Championship.

"It's one of those days for me. Aguilar had a great day - what else can you say?"

It also proved to be one round too many for Panuphol Pittayarat, whose disappointing 74 saw him surrender the lead he had held since the first day.

A bubbly figure in the earlier rounds, the Thai's confidence dropped, along with his shoulders, when his drive fell into the water on the 181-yard, par-three 8th, leading to a double bogey.

The 21-year-old finished joint-11th, prolonging his bid for a maiden pro victory.

Singapore's Quincy Quek (77) claimed 70th spot at the $1.89 million event - co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours - while compatriot Lam Chih Bing (71) ended joint-47th.

Quek, who was tied for second after the opening day, said: "My putting over the weekend wasn't up to the mark.

"To make the cut on home soil was great but I am still disappointed not to have finished higher."

Players were full of praise for the majestic 7,109-yard course which was primed for top-level golf just three weeks ago after it was announced that the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea had been scrapped because of a lack of sponsors.

Aguilar said: "I don't recall the last time I didn't make a three-putt and the only way you avoid that is if the greens are perfect.

"Laguna was just the perfect setting for me to produce the perfect shot - and a perfect way to return to the winners' circle."

The Championship

Final round 266 Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 65 67 72 62 267 Anders Hansen (Den) 67 66 67 67, David Lipsky (USA) 64 68 70 65 269 Rahil Gangjee (Ind) 66 67 71 65 270 Chris Wood (Eng) 68 67 68 67

Selected 274 Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) 63 68 69 74 Singaporeans 281 Lam Chih Bing 71 67 72 71

This article was published on May 5 in The Straits Times.

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