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Hend claims third Asian Tour title

(Photo: Asian Tour)
Chiangmai, Thailand, March 30: Australia's Scott Hend charged from six-shots back to win the inaugural Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT by three strokes after a stunning eight-under-par 64 in the final round on Sunday.

Big-hitting Hend earned his third Asian Tour title in front of large crowds at the Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai, taking home the winner's cheque of US$135,000 with his four-day total of 20-under-par 268.

South African newcomer Bryce Easton, playing in his first Asian Tour event, also shot a 64 to take second place while a faltering Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who led by five overnight, settled for third on 272 after a day to forget when he soared to a 74 in the US$750,000 full-field Asian Tour tournament.

The growing emergence of China's Hu Mu continued as he took fourth place following a 68 as he posted his first top-five finish on the region's premier Tour which is celebrating its milestone 10th season in 2013.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who needed a victory to have a chance of qualifying for the Masters Tournament in a fortnight, settled tied 10th position after a 72 while South Africa's Ernie Els, using the belly putter after three days with the short stick, finished tied 14th in the Chiangmai Golf Classic which was offering the highest world ranking points in Asia this week.

"To be honest, I didn't think I had a chance to win," said the 40-year-old Hend. "I played with Prayad the first two rounds and he was hitting the ball great and putting great. And obviously he played great yesterday again and I thought he would continue with the way he was playing.

"I was just looking for a solid top-five finish. Obviously it all fell together and I played quite well. Unfortunately for the other guys, they didn't quite keep the pace going which was good for me."

Despite a bogey on three, Hend sparked his round at the next hole with a 30-foot eagle conversion, which led to four more birdies over his next five holes. "From there, I just played pretty solid golf and holed the putts that I missed in the first three days. That was the difference. This win is fantastic. To shoot 20 under helps you believe in yourself that you've got the game."

His two previous wins on the Asian Tour also were come-from-behind victories. He stormed from five back to win the 2008 Indonesian Presidents Invitational and was four behind when he won the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic last season.

"I never had the chance to lead from the front. I would love to lead into the last round by three and see if I can hold the guys off. But you'll take anything you can get. To shoot eight under on the Sunday, I'm pretty proud of it," said Hend, who credited his caddie and former Tour regular Tony Carolan for his triumph.

The 25-year-old Easton, who missed his Asian Tour card by one shot at Qualifying School in January, was nine under for the round through 14 holes but double bogeyed the par three 15th when his tee shot found the lake. He missed a birdie chance at the closing par five 18th and was eventually passed by a fast-chaging Hend.

"I played great. The goal was to sneak into the top-five to get into next week (Panasonic Open India). I got going nicely and got into a position to win. I hit a few shots close early on and made a couple of putts and kept building on that. I just kept heading in the right direction but made some mistakes in the end," said Easton, whose runner-up cheque of US$82,500 is expected to be enough for him to get a full Tour card for 2014.

After three days of imperious golf, Prayad lamented a poor start where bogeyed the third and then found water en route to a double bogey on the par five seventh. A missed putt for from close range on nine for an outward 39 left him with an uphill task.

"My irons were no good. The second shots were always reaching the fringe on almost every hole. My feeling was okay when I started the final round. I'm not angry now although I had a chance to win," said the 47-year-old veteran star.

Scores after round 4 of the Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT being played at the par 72, 7,471 Yards Alpine GR course (a- denotes amateur):

268 - Scott HEND (AUS) 68-69-67-64.
271 - Bryce EASTON (RSA) 68-67-72-64.
272 - Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 65-67-66-74.
273 - HU Mu (CHN) 66-69-70-68.
274 - Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 71-69-70-64, BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 69-69-68-68, SIDDIKUR (BAN) 69-67-69-69, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 71-67-66-70, Matthew STIEGER (AUS) 68-67-68-71.
275 - MO Joong-kyung (KOR) 70-67-71-67, Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 68-70-68-69, Digvijay SINGH (IND) 67-67-70-71, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 69-65-69-72.
276 - KIM Gi-whan (KOR) 71-70-69-66, Chris RODGERS (ENG) 72-66-71-67, Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 71-69-68-68, Jake HIGGINBOTTOM (AUS) 70-68-69-69, Jaakko MAKITALO (FIN) 72-66-69-69, Ernie ELS (RSA) 69-71-66-70.
277 - Tetsuji HIRATSUKA (JPN) 70-68-71-68, Mithun PERERA (SRI) 70-66-71-70, Wade ORMSBY (AUS) 70-70-67-70, Jason KNUTZON (USA) 67-69-70-71, Y. E. YANG (KOR) 69-68-67-73, Anton HAIG (RSA) 72-66-66-73.

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