A DRAMATIC 72nd hole birdie has handed Lismore’s Sam Brazel his first professional title and a two-year exemption to the European Tour.
The 37-year-old Asian Tour regular was one of only two players in the final round who recorded a birdie at The Hong Kong Golf Club’s iconic par-four final hole, sinking an eight-foot life-changing putt.
Like fellow Australian Scott Hend in 2014, Brazel now has full playing rights on the European Tour after three years toiling in Asia.
“I’m still in a little bit of a shock,” Brazel told the Asian Tour’s website after the round.
“There’s some seriously good names on that trophy and it’s great to be a part of it. There’s a lot of great history in this event and this venue.
“It feels amazing, I’m speechless. What a win. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel privileged to be playing first of all and I feel ecstatic.”
ROUND FOUR HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HONG KONG OPEN:
Having started the day tied for the lead with Spanish Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello, Brazel looked to be struggling with two dropped shots sending him to the turn 2-over for the day.
But his playing partner was also out of sorts, an early birdie offset by a bogey-double, bogey run at the seventh and eighth.
The pair both turned things around on the inward journey and came to the final hole all square after each making three birdies.
It was then Brazel who produced the shot of the week, a 6-iron approach to the 18th which he later admitted wasn’t quite the shot he was trying to play.
“It was kind of unexpected,” he said. “I was trying to take it over the middle of the bunker in front of the green and play it safe.
“But I hit it a little thin and a little right but I’ll take it. The satisfying part was the putt.
“I’ve been working hard with my putting and it’s nice to stand there and roll one in the middle when it really counts.”
Brazel is now able to ply his trade on the world’s second biggest golf circuit.
"I'd love to come over to Europe,” he said. “It will be a great privilege."
While Brazel was basking in the glory of victory, Queensland’s Andrew Dodt was rueing his second close call in as many weeks after a final hole bogey saw him finish outright third.
The runner-up at last week’s Australian PGA was 5-under for his round coming to the 18th but a wild tee shot forced him to chip out from behind trees, the subsequent bogey ending his chances.
Marcus Fraser and Jason Scrivener finished T10 at 6-under, while Wade Ormsby and Brett Rumford both T25 at 4-under for the week.
Hend and Terry Pilkadaris both finished 1-over and T51 but Hend’s result was enough to ensure he finished atop the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
Hend is the first Australian to win the title and just the fourth to surpass the $1 million in earnings in a season.
“It’s quite special,” the 43-year-old said of the achievement after Sunday’s final round.
“Obviously winning any Order of Merit anywhere is very special, and this will stay with me forever.”
Hend finished the Asian Tour season with US$1,004,792 after posting two victories for the year.
SAM BRAZEL TALKS ABOUT HIS EMOTIONAL HONG KONG OPEN WIN: