| UBS Hong Kong Open Review
An epic final round with various players coming within touching distance of winning the UBS Hong Kong Open as the European Tour brought down the curtain on 2016 in dramatic fashion.
Australian Sam Brazel produced a stunning approach shot to the final hole to set up the brilliant birdie which defeated Rafa Cabrera Bello by one shot and secured his first European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open. The 37-year-old was visibly emotional as he lifted the trophy. Brazel spent years toiling in Australia competing in proams to earn a living before he started playing on the Asian Tour in 2013, writes Louie Chan.
The emotional Brazel celebrated with his caddie after he secured his first European Tour title at the
UBS Hong Kong Open
“I was very lucky. That wasn’t the greatest second shot in there but it ended up good and the rest is history.” The ecstatic champion added, “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing good. It’s just been a bit of a struggle with the old irons and my man, Adam, set me up with a new set of bats, and it’s all sort of turned around. This is the fruit.”
The Australian began the week ranked 480th in the Official World Golf Ranking but entered the final day at Fanling tied at the top of the leaderboard alongside Ryder Cup star Cabrera Bello in just his 17th European Tour appearance. At one point, there were six players in a tie for the lead on the back nine but Brazel held off a group with 11 European Tour titles between them, and an eight-foot putt on the last handed him a closing 68 and a 13-under-par total.
“I think I still had some nerves on the first tee today, but I settled in pretty quickly today. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday. I had a great playing partner in Rafa. I was stoked to play with him for the last two days. It was a thrill to be out there the last few days and I hope that continues and I have a lot more days like
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing good. It’s just been a bit of a struggle… and it’s all sort of turned around. This is the fruit.” – Sam Brazel
this in the future. I am really looking forward to getting over to Europe and playing on the European Tour. It will be a great privilege.”
Cabrera Bello, who had been in superb form all week, had birded the 16th and 17th to set up a grandstand finish down the last but he could only make a par and finish 12-under as Brazel’s incredible approach set up just the second birdie of the day on the closing hole. The 32-year-old said: “If you look at the week overall, it has been a great week, finishing second. Just a little disappointed today. I managed to start good again but then struggled halfway through the front nine. I battled back really hard again, same as yesterday. But then Sam just played a fantastic 18th hole.”
“Obviously, I am still proud of the performance. I messed up a little obviously on seven and eight but I stayed calm and waited for my chances. I gave myself lots of opportunities. Some didn’t fall, but at the end, 16 and 17, they were two great putts that did go in. The one on 18th, almost, as well. In the end, it’s a good week. It’s just a bitter taste finishing runner-up.”
Brazel started the day in a share of the lead with Cabrera Bello but the leading duo both turned in two over par 36 to allow the chasing pack to close the gap and set up a titanic battle on the back nine. Cabrera Bello had birdied the third for the fourth time of the week and when Brazel bogeyed the sixth after finding the sand, the Spaniard led by two shots.
The leader bogeyed the seventh after going over the back of the green before a poor chip on the next resulted in a double, and when Brazel went over the back of the ninth for a bogey, it was Willett who led after making birdies on the fourth, sixth, seventh, 12th and 13th.
Australian Andrew Dodt had opened with a bogey but turned in 34 after birdies on the fourth, sixth - courtesy of a lengthy putt and ninth, while American David Lipsky had a single birdie on the seventh after a stunning approach to turn in 33. Englishman Tommy Fleetwood recovered from a double-bogey on the third with birdies on the seventh and ninth and when Danny Willett dropped a shot on the 17th, there was a six-way tie for the lead at nine under.
Dodt broke out of the pack with a birdie on the 12th but he was not alone for long as Cabrera Bello drove the tenth, Brazel holed from eight feet on the 11th and Lipsky put his tee-shot to the 12th to four feet. Brazel was the next man to hit the front when he put his tee-shot on the 12th to tap-in range but Dodt splashed out of a bunker to birdie the 14th and Lipsky hit another brilliant iron into the 13th.
Brazel was looking cool and calm, rolling in a 30-footer on the 13th to get to 12 under and, while Dodt joined him with a gain on the 17th, the two-time winner dropped a shot on the last. Cabrera Bello had been out of sorts but he rolled in from the fringe on the 16th and when he made a 15-footer on the 17th, he and Brazel were back where they began the day, tied at the top.
Birdies at the 15th and 17th got Fleetwood to 11 under before playing partner Lipsky found the water on the 18th and all attention turned back to the final group and Brazel’s big finish.
Paul Waring was at eight under, a shot ahead of Danny Chia and Pablo Larrazábal, with Jorge Campillo, Marcus Fraser, Jbe Kruger and Jason Scrivener rounding out the top ten at six under. What an epic final round with various players came within touching distance of winning the UBS Hong Kong Open as the European Tour brought down the curtain on 2016 in dramatic fashion.