SMBC Singapore Open 2017

Golf: Prayad turns back clock with a win for the ages

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng putting at the Sentosa Golf Club's 18th hole, where his Singapore Open win made him the competition's oldest winner.
Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng putting at the Sentosa Golf Club's 18th hole, where his Singapore Open win made him the competition's oldest winner.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Prayad Marksaeng showing off his trophy after winning the SMBC Singapore Open yesterday. At 50, the Thai golfer is the oldest winner of the US$1 million (S$1.43 million) tournament. SEE SPORT C11
Prayad Marksaeng showing off his trophy after winning the SMBC Singapore Open yesterday. At 50, the Thai golfer is the oldest winner of the US$1 million (S$1.43 million) tournament. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Thai golf's elder statesman shows no sign of age, hitting 67 on last day to win by one shot

The oldest man in the SMBC Singapore Open field produced a performance to remember yesterday.

Prayad Marksaeng, who will celebrate his 51st birthday next Monday and is ranked 291st in the world, scored a stunning upset with victory at the US$1 million (S$1.43 million) tournament.

The stocky 1.63m Thai, who is the competition's oldest winner, fired the day's joint-best four-under 67 to triumph by a single shot at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He finished on nine-under 275, one clear of a quartet that included South Korean defending champion Song Young Han (69), fellow Thai Phachara Khongwatmai (71), Filipino Juvic Pagunsan (70) and South African Jbe Kruger (69).

It was Prayad's 10th Asian Tour title and he said the feeling was as sweet as his first, the China Open in 1996. He is the second-oldest winner on the Asian Tour after India's Mukesh Kumar, who won last month's Indian Open at the age of 51 years and 126 days.

To put his longevity into perspective, when Prayad turned pro in 1991, three of the golfers in the top eight at Sentosa - Song, Phachara and Rikuya Hoshina (tied-sixth on 277) - had not been born yet.

AGEING LIKE A WINE

He's old but that age is just a number. Among the Thai golfers, he has the best golf swing. It's smooth, has tempo and rhythm. When we talk about him, we talk about his swing. People try to copy his swing.

PAVIT TANGKAMOLPRASERT, Thai golfer, on how Singapore Open winner Prayad Marksaeng's famed swing is admired by his countrymen.

  • FINAL LEADERBOARD

  • 275 Prayad Marksaeng (Tha)

    276 Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Juvic Pagunsan (Phi) Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Song Young Han (Kor)

    277 Park Sang Hyun (Kor), Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn), Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn)

    278 Adam Scott (Aus), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn)


    SELECTED

    279 Sergio Garcia (Esp)

    280 Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind)

    282 Quincy Quek (Sgp)

    284 Choo Tze Huang (Sgp)

    286 Miguel Tabuena (Phi)

Prayad, who earned US$180,000 for his victory and a spot at July's British Open, said: "This is one of the happiest days of my life. It's a very good birthday present for me."

This was his sixth worldwide title since 2010 and he shows no signs of slowing down. He said: "There's no secret. I sleep early, eat healthy, no alcohol, no smoking."

He began the final round four shots behind Day 3 leader and world No. 7 Adam Scott but started strongly with three birdies on Serapong's front nine.

He rolled in a birdie putt from seven feet on the 496m, par-five 18th for the clubhouse lead, an advantage he never surrendered while monitoring proceedings for more than two hours in the players' lounge.

He did not bother to go back to the driving range or putting green, joking that at his age, he was happy to leave things to fate. "The wind was getting strong in the afternoon so I knew it was going to be difficult for the others to shoot a low score."

Whether it was the gusts or pressure of competition, no one from the chasing pack was able to cope with the conditions. Scott, who was seeking a fourth Singapore Open title, hit two balls into the water and closed with a 74 - his second-worst score in his 29 Singapore Open rounds - that included a double-bogey six on the 393m, par-four 15th, to finish tied-ninth.

He said: "I gave myself some chances but I had a couple of bad swings on No. 15 obviously."

Wild drives also led to costly bogeys on the back nine for Song and Pagunan. The Filipino, who lost in a play-off to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the 2011 edition, was dejected. He said: "I bogeyed numbers 12 and 13. Those were tough holes. I made mistakes with my tee shots as well."

Prayad's performance on the greens was practically flawless. He needed just 25 putts yesterday, the lowest among 77 players and his 19 birdies for the week was joint most with Park Sang Hyun (70, 277).

Not bad for someone using a new set of Srixon irons. Prayad, whose first club was made with bamboo and a piece of scrap metal, said: "I just got them three weeks ago and didn't have much time to practise but they felt really comfortable."

Compatriot Pavit Tangkamolprasert (71), was not surprised at how adaptable Prayad was. He said: "He's old but that age is just a number. Among the Thai golfers, he has the best golf swing. It's smooth, has tempo and rhythm. When we talk about him, we talk about his swing. People try to copy his swing."

Spain's world No. 15 Sergio Garcia (69, 279) ended tied-11th on his Singapore Open debut while the Republic's Quincy Quek (74, 282) was the top local with his tied-26th finish.

Like Quek, whose daughter Olivia was born two Saturdays ago, Prayad could not wait to return home to Hua Hin to see his four children, his youngest just nine months old.

He said with a laugh: "I'm still a young man."

After yesterday's demonstration, few would argue with him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Prayad turns back clock with a win for the ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe