Poom Saksansin wins TAKE Solutions Masters

The Thai held off home favourite Khalin Joshi under immense pressure to card four-under 67 in the final round and claim his second Asian Tour title.

Saksansin overcame stiff competition from local favourite Khalin Joshi to win his second Asian Tour title.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P

A nerveless Poom Saksansin produced a round of solid if unspectacular golf to win the TAKE Solutions Masters by two shots here on Sunday. The Thai held off home favourite Khalin Joshi under immense pressure to card four-under 67 in the final round and claim his second Asian Tour title with a wire-to-wire victory.

Cheered on by a large crowd at the KGA, Joshi shot an identical 67 but every time he felt in the ascendant, his unruffled rival responded.

Saksansin signed for a total of 16-under 268, with Joshi (270) and Chandigarh's Ajeetesh Sandhu (274) -- who was eighth overnight -- immediately behind. Divyanshu Bajaj and Abhinav Lohan tied for fourth with Indonesia's Rory Hie (275). S. Chikkarangappa (278), the third man in the leader-group, endured a miserable day, shooting two-over 73
to slide to joint 10th.

"I do not come from a rich family and playing golf wasn't easy at first,” said Saksansin, after picking up a cheque for USD 54,000. “My mother would note down how much she spent on my golf. When that sum crossed a million Thai Baht, she stopped counting. Now, I'll hand this money over to her.”

He had been nervous, admitted the 24-year-old, whose father works as a manager at his home club (Pine Golf and Lodge, Bangkok). “I tried to be calm. But if I did badly today, people would say, 'Oh, this guy is a chicken.' My caddy put me at ease whenever I was tense," he said.

There was drama early in the day, with Joshi making a couple of remarkable putts on the front nine: a 40-footer to save par on three, and a chip-in from the edge of the green to make birdie on five. But bogeys on seven and nine handed Saksansin – who had led by two overnight – a three-stroke advantage at the turn. That gap widened to four on 14 when Joshi bogeyed again. The contest seemed as good as over.

But Joshi fought back, birdieing the par-three 15th while Saksansin found the bunker and could only manage bogey. All of a sudden, the advantage had been cut by two and the hitherto unperturbed leader appeared vulnerable. Saksansin, however, delivered a stunning riposte, sinking a 15-foot putt for birdie on 16.

As the ball tiptoed around the cup before dropping in, he puffed his cheeks out. "It was an OK shot but it meant a lot for my feelings at that time," he said afterwards. When Saksansin matched Joshi's birdie on 17, the battle was over.

"I did put pressure on him on the 15th hole but Poom played pretty solid," admitted Joshi, whose best finish on the Asian Tour had previously been a tied second in Bangladesh two years ago. "He deserved to win.”

The scores (final top nine): 268: Poom Saksansin (Tha) 64, 67, 70, 67;
270: Khalin Joshi 68, 67, 68, 67; 274: Ajeetesh Sandhu 69, 72, 67, 66;
275: Rory Hie (Ina) 69, 67, 72, 67, Divyanshu Bajaj 66, 71, 69, 69,
Abhinav Lohan 70, 72, 64, 69; 276: Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha) 70,
71, 69, 66; 277: Honey Baisoya 73, 67, 70, 67, Rahil Gangjee 70, 66,
73, 68.