Rai Claims thrilling victory at ISPS Handa Singapore golf

September 11th, 2011 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, Sep 11 (IANS) India’s Himmat Rai claimed an enthralling five-way play-off victory at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic here Sunday, holing a glorious 25-foot birdie putt on the sixth extra hole to secure his maiden Asian Tour title.

The 24-year-old Rai went the distance with Filipino Elmer Salvador at the Orchid Country Club after Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk, South African Tjaart Van Der Walt and Brazilian Adilson Da Silva bowed out after the second play-off hole. All five players tied on nine-under-par 271 in regulation play, the most players in a play-off in Asian Tour history.

It was a toe-to-toe battle between the last two men standing before Rai nailed the winning putt in fading light to earn $47,550 and also a priceless two-year exemption on the Asian Tour.

“I can’t believe that I have pulled it off. I was just trying to improve my score (as he was four back on the back nine) and the playoff was splendid. I stuck to my routine and thoroughly pleased with my finish. It is very sweet and special,” said Rai.

The talented Indian, who signed off with a one-over-par 71, double bogeyed the 13th hole to fall back on the leaderboard but charged home with courageous birdies on 15 and 16 while long time pacesetter Da Silva dropped a costly double bogey on the 15th hole.

In extra time, the play-off was riveting with Salvador holing a long birdie putt on the second extra hole and pulling off wonderful shots before losing.

“I just knew I had to close it soon before things got out of hand (with the darkness). I gave myself a good chance. That putt, sometimes when you are under pressure, you tend to rush it but I thought if I don’t close it, the game would go otherwise. I hit a solid putt. I was lucky it went in,” said Rai.

The 41-year-old Salvador, who closed with a final round 66, was the surprise package as he hung in the play-off and made a 50-foot birdie on the second extra hole which kept him in the tournament.

He took his cap off to India’s newest champion. “I didn’t expect Himmat to hole his putt at the last hole as it was a long one,” said Salvador, who took home the runner-up’s cheque of $19,485.

The ISPS Handa Singapore Classic donated $100,000 to the relief and rebuilding efforts in Japan following the tsunami tragedies earlier this year.

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