Golf: Lin wins Asia-Pacific Amateur C'ship to earn 2nd trip to Augusta, Leow's T-5 is Singapore's best result

Lin Yuxin's victory sends him to the Masters and the British Open next year.
Lin Yuxin's victory sends him to the Masters and the British Open next year.PHOTO: AAC_GOLF/TWITTER

SHANGHAI (AP) - Lin Yuxin struggled so much with the par-five 18th hole at Sheshan International on Sunday (Sept 29) that he thought it cost him in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

He played it to perfection in the first sudden-death play-off in the 11-year history of the golf tournament, and his birdie on the second extra hole gave him victory over defending champion Takumi Kanaya of Japan and allowed him to join Hideki Matsuyama as the only two-time winners.

Two shots back after regulation play was Singapore golfer James Leow, who tied for fifth after his final-round three-under 69 gave him an eight-under 280 total and the Republic's best finish.

Hiroshi Tai was the next-best Singaporean, a 71 giving him 14th spot on 285. Low Wee Jin also had a 71 for 291 and joint 28th spot, Wong Qi Wen's 74 put him tied-42nd on 296, while Joshua Ho (73, 304) and Lucius Toh (75, 305) were 57th and tied-58th respectively.

Singapore's previous highest finish in this tournament was tied-seventh by Choo Tze Huang in 2010 in Kawagoe, Japan.

In Sunday's play-off between the last two winners of Asia's biggest amateur event, Lin made a seven-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole at the 18th to extend the battle, then won when he blasted out of a greenside bunker to three feet and made the putt.

Lin's victory sends him to the Masters and the British Open next year.

"I'm happy to win this trophy back," said Lin, who won in 2017 when it was in New Zealand. "Just being able to get back to Augusta and the British Open, it's a great feeling. I can't wait to get back to those two amazing championships."

He won by three shots in 2017. This one was up for grabs until the final hole, with as many as six players in the mix on the back nine.

Lin had a one-shot lead going to the 72nd hole when he drove into a fairway bunker left of the fairway, and pulled his second shot into the water when trying to lay up. That led to bogey and a 68. He had made double bogey on the 18th hole on Saturday, and bogey on the 18th hole on Friday.

"It was not my friend for most of the rounds, in the hazard three days in a row," Lin said. "It turned out pretty good in match play."

He was fortunate just to get into a play-off. His bogey dropped him to 10-under 278, tied with Kanaya. Kanaya had a seven-foot birdie putt in regulation, but it missed on the left side and he ended up with a 69.

 

Kanaya made an 18-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, forcing Lin to make his seven-foot birdie putt to extend the play-off. Lin finally hit the fairway on the 18th on the second extra hole, and his length allowed him to go for the green and put his second shot in a bunker left of the green to set up the birdie.

Liu, playing in the final group, had 110 yards to the pin for his third shot and needed birdie to win. His wedge hit the top of the ridge and spun down the slope to 40 feet, and he three-putted for bogey for a 71 to miss out on the play-off.

Lin becomes the third player to win in his home country. Antonio Murdaca of Australia won at Royal Melbourne in 2014, while Matsuyama won his first Asia-Pacific Amateur at Kasumigaseki Country Club - the course of the Olympics next summer - in 2010.

With a four-way tie for the lead at the start of the final round, it was figured to go down to the final hole, except that none of the four made it to the play-off.

Chinese Taipei's Liu Yung-hua had the best chance. He birdied four of the opening five holes to seize control, only to make double bogey on the ninth hole when his approach rolled over the back of the green and nestled against a collar of thick rough. He stubbed his chip, hit the next chip six feet by the hole and missed.

Even so, he had a chance to win it on the par-five 18th until three-putting for bogey, missing a five -foot par putt that would have put him in the play-off.

Lin took the lead with a birdie on the par-five 14th, and he looked to have the winning touch down the stretch. From a collar just above the bunker on the reachable 16th, he hit a punch-and-run away from a pot bunker and onto the green to seven feet, making birdie to reach 11 under. Then, he saved par with a seven-foot putt on the par-three 17th.

But from a fairway bunker on the 18th, he was too aggressive and pulled the shot into the water. Lin reached the front of the green and two-putted for a bogey.

Leow of Singapore also had a chance. Three back at the start of the day, he drove the 16th green and made a 20-footer for eagle and was just one behind playing the 18th. He laid up in the rough, and his wedge to the green went over the back, down the slope and into the water, leading to double bogey and a 69. He wound up two shots out of the play-off.

Lin's victory means Chinese players now have four titles in 11 years at the Asia-Pacific Amateur. Along with his two victory, Guan Tianlang won in 2012 and Jin Cheng won in 2015. Japanese players have won three times.

The 120-man field featured players from 39 countries and territories across the Asia-Pacific region.