Emo­tional Brazel scores win of ca­reer at Hong Kong Open

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Un­her­alded Aus­tralian Sam Brazel wept yes­ter­day af­ter clinch­ing the Hong Kong Open in thrilling style with a birdie at the fi­nal hole, seal­ing by far the big­gest vic­tory of his ca­reer. The world num­ber 480 de­feated Span­ish Ry­der Cup star Rafa Cabr­era Bello-ranked 447 places above him-on the 18th af­ter Brazel ag­o­nis­ingly missed a birdie on the 17th.

Brazel, 37, whose part­ner died sud­denly from bac­te­rial menin­gi­tis in 2009, cried as he ded­i­cated the im­prob­a­ble vic­tory to his fam­ily, say­ing: “This is for you guys.”

Asked if he had a mes­sage for his loved ones, his voice again cracked as he added: “I’d just say thanks for the sup­port over many years. “It’s been a bit of a tough ride.”

Brazel had never won a four-round tour­na­ment be­fore yes­ter­day, and un­til he gained his Asian Tour card in 2013 was grind­ing out results on lower-level cir­cuits such as the Queens­land Sun­shine Tour in Aus­tralia. He ad­mit­ted he was still in shock from his gi­ant-killing to­tal of 267, which also saw off a chal­lenge from US Mas­ters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett, who had held the lead at one point but ended in sixth place on 271. “I cer­tainly didn’t ex­pect to be in here this af­ter­noon but I’m thor­oughly im­pressed that I am!” he said as he faced the me­dia. “I was sup­posed to be tak­ing a 9.30 flight back to Aus­tralia tonight but I don’t think I’ll be mak­ing that!”

He had ear­lier said win­ning the $2 mil­lion Hong Kong Open would “mean the world” to him-and his fel­low Aus­tralian golfers in­clud­ing Scott Hend mobbed him on the fi­nal green to douse him in cham­pagne. Hend, the Asian Tour Or­der of Merit winner, called the vic­tory “life-chang­ing” for Brazel, adding: “You beauty!” Cabr­era Bello, who has not won on the Euro­pean Tour since the 2012 Dubai Desert Clas­sic, had to set­tle for sec­ond place, fin­ish­ing with a round of 268. Aus­tralia’s Andrew Dodt and Eng­land’s Tommy Fleet­wood were tied third on 11 un­der par at 269.

The first prize cheque of $333,330 more than tre­bled Brazel’s earn­ings for the sea­son on the Asian Tour, and un­til Sun­day the high­light of his ca­reer was fourth place at the World Clas­sic Cham­pi­onship in Sin­ga­pore last year. Brazel had been tied at 12 un­der par with Cabr­era Bello go­ing into the last hole, but a stun­ning sec­ond shot from the fair­way saw the Aus­tralian within 15 feet of the flag.

The Spa­niard was also on to the green in two shots but could not make the putt, while Brazel sunk his to thun­der­ous cheers. Brazel said he had been a “ner­vous wreck” on the back nine as a host of play­ers jock­eyed for the lead­er­ship.

But his nerves did not ap­pear to af­fect his play, with three con­sec­u­tive birdies on holes 11, 12 and 13, see­ing him move into the lead-and a re­mark­able tee shot on the par-three 12th which rolled to within a foot of the hole was pos­si­bly the pick of the bunch.

Else­where, de­fend­ing cham­pion Justin Rose, who was strug­gling with a bad back, was never in con­tention and ended the week with at two un­der par 278.

And US Ry­der Cup star Pa­trick Reed, who came third last year, ad­mit­ted he had had a “rough” time, end­ing at just one un­der par on 279.

—AP

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Open golf tour­na­ment winner Sam Brazel of Aus­tralia, left, and Asian Tour’s Or­der of Merit winner Scott Hend of Aus­tralia pose with their tro­phies in Hong Kong, yes­ter­day. Brazel birdied the 18th hole to nar­rowly edge Rafa Cabr­era Bello of Spain to cap­ture the Hong Kong Open yes­ter­day, his first ti­tle on the Euro­pean Tour.

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