Aphibarnrat wins Maybank Malaysian Open by one shot over Molinari

Kiradech Aphibarnrat at the Maybank Malaysian Open
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Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Maybank Malaysian Open on Sunday with a final round containing an eagle, four birdies and four bogeys.
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PGA.com news services

Series: European Tour

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday to beat Edoardo Molinari by a stroke and win a Maybank Malaysian Open shortened to 54 holes after constant rain interruptions.

Aphibarnrat had an eagle, four birdies and four bogeys at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club for a three-round total of 203. Molinari had a 67, one stroke ahead of Denmark's Anders Hansen, who shot 66 for a 205 total.

Charl Schwartzel (71) and Victor Dubuisson (70) shared fourth place, three strokes off the lead.

After thunderstorms shortened play on each of the first three days, organizers announced Saturday the tournament would be decided over three rounds. Play was suspended again Sunday for more than two hours because of rain.

The final bout of rain arrived just after the final group had teed off on the 16th hole on Sunday. That meant a two-hour delay with Aphibarnrat one shot ahead of Molinari, who had completed his 67 just before the delay and was safely in the clubhouse.

But Aphibarnrat made light of the disruption, hitting his approach to the 16th to three feet for birdie and then saving par on the next after almost finding water over the back of the green.

The 23-year-old former junior world champion therefore had the luxury of taking 6 on the 634-yard, par-5 18th to complete a closing 70, sealing his one-shot win.

"This means a lot to me," Aphibarnrat said. "I had been struggling a lot after getting sick with my thyroid, but I fought and worked hard with my dad and my coach to have today. I have to thank my family, my mum and dad have always supported me and I am sure they are in front of the TV watching."

The leaders started the day on the third hole and Aphibarnrat pitched to three feet for a birdie before holing from 15 feet for an eagle on the par-5 fifth.

At that stage, his nearest challenger was Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who had eagled the same hole and also picked up three birdies, but the three-time major winner carded three bogeys in succession on the back nine to fade to sixth.

Bogeys at the seventh and 12th then saw Aphibarnrat joined at the top of the leaderboard by China's Wu Ashun, but as Wu also faded – shanking a pitch on the 16th into the crowd – Aphibarnrat birdied the 14th to edge ahead of Molinari, who was by now in the clubhouse.

The thunderstorm that arrived soon after looked to have come at a bad time for Aphibarnrat, but he disagreed.

"I think it was good for me, I have time to rest and there were a lot of things going through my head. After I birdied the 16th, I thought I had a good chance to win," he said. "The 18th hole I've played 10 times before, but today it was the toughest hole I have ever played, even though I could make six to win."

Molinari was left to rue a number of missed chances, despite having previously missed the cut in all five of his appearances this season.

"It's mixed emotions because I'm very happy to have a good week for the first time in a long time," said the former Ryder Cup player, who changed coaches in December after missing three months following wrist surgery. "The swing changes (under Sean Foley, who also coaches Tiger Woods and Justin Rose) are starting to pay off, which is surprising because I thought it would take a lot longer, but I'm disappointed because I had a lot of chances on the back nine.

"The 18th is only the second fairway I missed all day which is very disappointing," he added. "I felt if I birdied the last I might have won outright because it puts a lot of pressure on the guy coming up behind, but unfortunately I think I'll be one or two short."