Nitithorn Thippong wins DGC Open in playoff

After a dramatic sequence of events over the last five holes leading to the playoff hole, Nitithorn Thippong won the inaugural $500,000 DGC Open title for his maiden triumph on the Asian Tour on Sunday.

Thailand's Nitithorn Thippong with the trophy after winning the inaugural DGC Open golf title at the Delhi Golf Club course in New Delhi on Sunday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

After a dramatic sequence of events over the last five holes leading to the playoff hole, Nitithorn Thippong won the inaugural $500,000 DGC Open title for his maiden triumph on the Asian Tour on Sunday.

Ajeetesh Sandhu not only bridged Thippong’s two-stroke overnight lead but also led by two strokes, But two poor tee-shots - on the 17th and the playoff hole saw the Indian finish runner-up for the fifth time on the Tour.

In his seventh season as a professional, Thippong overcame a lapse in concentration over three holes to get his grip back on the title worth $90,000. This victory was even sweeter after a two-stroke swing on the 14th hole - where Thippong bogeyed, and Sandhu birdied. Worse, Thippong dropped a stroke on the 16th to trail Sandhu by two shots. 

Moments later, Sandhu let Thippong right back into contention. He found the bushes with his tee-short on the par-3 17th hole for an eventual double-bogey. The two leaders birdied the 18th to force a playoff.

DGC Open: Thippong breezes past struggling Indians on windy day  

Back on the 18th for the playoff, Sandhu drove into the bushes on the right while Thippong was firmly on the fairway. The soft-spoken Thai unleashed a near-perfect 3-wood approach shot to be within 12 feet of the flag. By this time, Sandhu knew the outcome as he laid up and reached the green with his third shot. He went on to find par while Thippong two-putted for a title-winning birdie.

Reflecting on the key moments, Thippong said, “Even when I lost my lead, I was not too worried. I was focussing on my process. In the playoff, when Sandhu hit his tee-shot into the bushes, I was thinking of laying up but my caddy insisted that I should go for the flag which was 280 yards away. So I went for it.”

Notwithstanding the challenges posed by the re-laid course and the windy conditions of Day One and Three, Thippong maintained that a winning score of 7-under was high. “I am aware that usually, the winning score is around 12-under on this course. This time the wind and tough pin-position made it difficult for the players, but I think 10-under would have been an ideal score.”

Talking about his play, Sandhu said, “On the 17th, I tried to hit a shot which was not a high percentage one. I tried to move it with the wind to go into the flag but just didn’t make a good swing. On the playoff hole, I hit a good drive that landed on the fairway and just took off to the right. So I got a little unlucky there. I then chipped out with a 7-iron and followed that up with a gap wedge. I felt the wind hold up the third shot a little bit leaving me a tricky 15-feet birdie putt.”

In all the excitement around the finish, Thailand’s Danthai Boonma shot a 64 to set a new course record on the re-laid DGC course.

Final scores (with prize-money, Indians unless stated):

281 - Nitithorn Thippong (Tha) (68, 70, 70, 73) ($90,000), Ajeetesh Sandhu (69, 68, 73, 71) ($55,000); 282 - Settee Prakongvech (Tha) (71, 70, 70, 71) ($31,500); 284 - Gaganjeet Bhullar (73, 66, 73, 72) ($25,000); 285 - Justin Quiban (Phi) (74, 72, 69, 70) ($20,500); 286 - Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (75, 70, 74, 67), Shiv Kapur (71, 73, 74, 68); Mithun Perera (Sri) (73, 70, 74, 69), Veer Ahlawat (68, 67, 78, 73) ($13,462.50 each).

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