SMBC Singapore Open

Golf: On Song for the first time

Song taking a wefie with Spieth at the press conference.
Song taking a wefie with Spieth at the press conference. PHOTO: LAGARDERE SPORTS/KHALID REDZA
The final-day drama began with Jordan Spieth holing his final shot, a birdie at the 18th, to close the gap on leader Song Young Han to one stroke.
The final-day drama began with Jordan Spieth holing his final shot, a birdie at the 18th, to close the gap on leader Song Young Han to one stroke.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Song and his caddie celebrating after the 24-year-old South Korean held his nerve to make par on the 18th to win the SMBC Singapore Open.
Song and his caddie celebrating after the 24-year-old South Korean held his nerve to make par on the 18th to win the SMBC Singapore Open. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Korean edges idol Spieth by a stroke to finally win after six runner-up finishes in pro career

To say that Song Young Han has spent his entire golfing life waiting for yesterday to happen would not be an understatement.

A runner-up six times in his fledging career that began in 2013, the South Korean finally clinched his first professional title, winning the US$1 million (S$1.44 million) SMBC Singapore Open with a final round of one-under 70 for a 272 total.

And the 24-year-old took his time to soak in this memorable victory.

He stood patiently to receive the trophy that he had held his nerve to win since reaching the top of the leaderboard on Friday. He tried repeatedly to call his mother back home to tell her the good news. He even lingered in the press conference room for a wefie with the runner-up, his idol and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth.

The American dominates the world rankings table but on the fifth and final day at the Sentosa Golf Club, it was the son of a Republic of Korea Air Force pilot who was looking down from atop the leader board.

"I had several experiences of being on top of the leader board so I wasn't really nervous but I knew this is a rare opportunity," noted the world No. 204, who led the Japan Tour's Fukushima Open last July by a stroke after three rounds but eventually lost to Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng by one shot. "I wanted to have it, so I tried my very best."

SLEEPLESS NIGHT

Last night felt like a week. I couldn't eat and thought about the 16th green the entire night.''

SONG YOUNG HAN, SMBC Singapore Open winner, on having to wait a day to finish the final round. He had a chat with his friend in Korea and practised putting in his room.

Song's finest hour gave him a one-shot victory over Spieth, whose closing 66 and 273 meant he finished second on his Singapore debut. China's Liang Wenchong, who completed his round on Sunday, was third on 274.

Said Spieth, 22: "I fought hard in the final round, but it was just a little bit too far back."

Inclement weather forced a Monday finish and left Song and Spieth with crucial tests on the 16th and 18th green respectively.

Song's was a three-metre putt to save par and it had been agony in his hotel room on Sunday night, he recalled via a translator.

"Last night felt like a week. I couldn't eat and thought about the 16th green the entire night," he said. "I was alone in my room and going crazy so I called my friend in Korea and had a long conversation with him. I also practised my putting in my room."

He went to bed at 11pm and woke up calm and prepared for his 7.30am examination on the Serapong Course.

Said his caddy Shiro Okamoto: "He was not nervous at all. We spoke about the putt for a short time over breakfast but that was it. He was confident of making the putt."

He saved par but with Spieth also converting his five-foot birdie chance up ahead and halving Song's lead, the pressure remained suffocating with two holes left.

He parred the 17th and then hit his approach to the 496m, par-five 18th to six metres for a birdie.

The 111th putt of his tournament slid inches wide of the hole but a day that began for Song with a tricky putt ended with a tap-in and hands raised in jubilation while cheers rang out from the 250 fans gathered.

Besides the US$180,000 winner's cheque, he also became the first Korean to win the event, as well as the first Asian to triumph since India's Jeev Milkha Singh in 2008.

Said an ever-grinning Song, whose phone had 124 congratulatory text messages within 45 minutes of lifting the trophy: "This week is very special for me.

"My goal this year was to win a tournament and I did it on my first attempt. So my goal now is to win three tournaments this year."

Ambition is fuelled when potential meets product and for Song, whose blue-checked shirt had the words "ready anytime" emblazoned on his back, there is the belief that his time has finally arrived.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'On Song for the 1st time'. Print Edition | Subscribe