Golf: Garcia ends drought

For one week here at Ho Tram in Vietnam, it has been Garcia-mania.

The Spanish world No. 12 (above) was flown in by helicopter from Ho Chih Minh city to this seaside resort, about 120 kilometres from the main airport last Sunday.

His pictures - both of those stepping out of the chopper and in bow-tie and suit, scream out of cardboard displays and huge banners and posters at the Grand Hotel and The Bluffs golf club - bringing out an omnipresence he has never experienced before.

And it was most fitting that the Man of the Moment - and Tournament - repaid the people's faith with a dramatic victory in the US$2.1 million ($2.9m) Ho Tram Open here.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who drew the biggest galleries on all four days despite even not being in the final flight yesterday, finished tops in a 144-strong field after a four-way play-off.

He beat India's Himmat Rai, Taiwan's Lin Wen-tang and Thailand's "evergreen" Thaworn Wiratchant in the play-off, edging out Rai (who like Garcia birdied the 18th hole in the first play-off) in the second play-off hole.

It was Garcia's 23rd career victory and his first since last January.

And in the victory (after a 68 yesterday), after the four players finished on 14-under 270, he showed the best and worst side of his game, later conceding that he "was a little lucky to win".

"Winning is never easy. I was fortunate and you have to be lucky to win," said Garcia.

FORTUNATE

"I was fortunate to get a second chance after I pretty much gave it away. I'm very happy as I haven't won in a while.

"After you've been up there and you don't win, a lot of things go through your mind and this win will help give me a little bit more confidence."

After what looked like a cruise to the finish with a six-birdie 29 after the first nine, Garcia's game almost went to pieces when nerves got the better of him after a poor drive on the par-five 10th.

And on the way in, he had no birdies but a double-bogey and bogey that saw him finish on three-over 39.

Nevertheless, in the play-off, he brought out his best again, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt in dramatic fashion with Rai left with a "gimme" six-footer for birdie, while Thaworn and Lin played pars.

In the second play-off hole, Garcia drove into the bunker, but Rai failed to capitalise on the "lapse" by sending his tee-shot into the bushes.

The Indian hit a provisional but, when the spotters found his ball, he blasted back into the fairway and managed only a bogey.

Garcia made an easy par, just missing his putt from 15 feet, and the crowd went wild, many probably not realising that the Spaniard was handed an appearance fee touted to be US$350,000.

Coupled with a winner's cheque for US$270,000, it was a great week for Garcia, both as a player and celebrity.

It was also a great week for Singaporean Koh Dengshan (73) who finished joint-26th for his biggest pay cheque of US$13,425 in his near four-year pro career.


This article was first published on December 7, 2015.
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