Aiken wins Avantha Masters, holding off local favorite Bhullar by three

Thomas Aiken at the Avantha Masters
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Thomas Aiken won the Avantha Masters after playing his last 46 holes without a bogey.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 | 12:14 p.m.

GREATER NOIDA, India -- Thomas Aiken claimed his second European Tour title on Sunday thanks to some self-professed "phenomenal" golf in the Avantha Masters.

Aiken, of South Africa, held a three-shot lead going into the final day thanks to a third-round 62 and was never caught, even though playing partner Wen-chong Liang carded a hole in one on the seventh. India's Gaganjeet Bhullar also threatened to claim a popular home victory at the Jaypee Greens Golf Club he represents, twice getting within two shots of the lead as he recorded a superb closing 64.

But Aiken held his nerve and finished in style with a birdie on the last, carding a flawless 67 to finish 23 under par, three ahead of Bhullar with Liang (69) a further two shots back in third. The 29-year-old from Johannesburg, whose previous win came in the 2011 Spanish Open, is the sixth South African winner on the European Tour this season.

"They just kept coming at me today," Aiken said. "I tried my best to get a little bit of a lead but couldn't get it going, everyone was holing everything; Liang on the front nine and Bhullar made some amazing birdies coming in.

"By no means was it a walk in the park," he added. "Finally, I can have a bit of a breather."

A breather Aiken could certainly have done without came on the 18th tee, where he endured a 12-minute wait due to a prolonged ruling in the group ahead after Australian Scott Hend had driven into the water.

"It's not the easiest tee shot in the world, but I managed to hit a fairly decent one," Aiken said. "I didn't really want to miss the fairway because I have been getting fliers out of the rough all week and I got another one, but it worked out well.

"I have been playing very nicely the last four months, making very few mistakes but not sinking enough putts," he explained. "This week a few went in and I hit some better iron shots and I played phenomenal golf; two bogeys the whole week and overall I am very pleased with the way I played."

Aiken's only two bogeys came on the seventh and eighth holes of his second round, meaning he played the last 46 holes without dropping a shot and carded a total of 21 birdies and two eagles during the week.

Although Bhullar began the final round with three birdies and an eagle in the first five holes and Liang was also 3 under through five, Aiken crucially kept his nose in front with birdies at the second and fifth.

Liang then suffered a double bogey on the sixth before bouncing back in spectacular style by holing his tee shot on the next with an 8-iron. But Aiken remained unruffled and picked up three shots on the back nine to seal an impressive win.

England's David Horsey shot a final round of 67 to finish in a tie for sixth with Hend (70) and Scotland's David Drysdale (71), while Spain's Alvaro Quiros (73) tied for 56th on his first start after a four-month injury layoff following wrist surgery.