Garcia earns first win of 2013

Spaniard Sergio Garcia claimed a sensational four-shot victory at the Thailand Golf Championship on Sunday, thanks to a final round of four-under-par 68 which gave him a first victory of 2013.

The Ryder Cup star, who held an overnight four-shot advantage, held off world number three Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who also signed for a 68 in the US$1 million Asian Tour event at Amata Spring Country Club.

Frenchman Alexander Levy carded a 69 to finish third while India’s Anirban Lahiri emerged as the joint best Asian performer by sharing fourth place with Japan’s Yuki Kono (69), last year’s winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (67) and world number four Justin Rose of England (72). Chapchai Nirat was the highest placed Thai golfer in tied eighth after a 69.

In a year which has seen him post 10 top-10s around the world, world number 19 Garcia, who is expected to rise to 10th in the world after picking up 38 world ranking points, produced some of his best golf to break his duck in front of massive galleries at the magnificent Amata Spring.

Stenson, winner of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and PGA Tour’s FedExCup this season, trimmed the overnight lead by half at the turn but Garcia shifted into fifth gear with three successive birdies from the 10th hole to eventually cruise home comfortably and pick up his 21st Tour victory and fourth on the Asian Tour with his 22-under-par 266 winning aggregate.

“It was great, an amazing week …. obviously being the last week of the year and for having Katharina (Boehm) caddie for me,” said the 33-year-old, who had his girlfriend on caddying duty here.

“I knew Henrik was going to make it difficult for me. He’s been playing so amazingly great, and he did. He kept hitting good shot after good shot. And then when I bogeyed seven, I had to make a good par save on nine after getting a bit unlucky with the approach shot. And then I made three very important birdies on the first three on the back nine and gave myself a little bit of a cushion,” added Garcia, who finished fourth here last year.

After safely hitting the floating island green on the par three signature 17th hole and finding the fairway on 18, it was only then that Garcia could enjoy the victory march up the final green.

“I pretty much knew that finishing par, par, the tournament was pretty much mine, and then just making sure I kept the tee shot dry on 18 and I hit a great second shot with a six iron, and once the ball came out of the clubface, I knew that I was pretty much done,” said Garcia, who pocketed US$180,000.

Stenson, who has been enjoying dinners with Garcia throughout the week in Bangkok, lamented missed opportunities on eight and nine which would have drawn him level with the Spaniard.

“I’ve had a great year but coming here really on the fumes left in the tank, not too much going for me to perform in that sense. But I played really nicely yesterday and I was hanging in there today and I was just coming up a couple short,” said the Swede, who has won three times since August.

“I needed something really, really good to happen on eight and nine but I didn’t make those two birdie putts and Sergio was hanging in there, made one or two good saves and then he made three birdies in a row, and pulled away. Congratulations to Sergio on a great week. He played really well.”

Playing in the last group with Garcia and Stenson, Lahiri got off to a bright start with a birdie on two but failed to build on any momentum with bogeys on eight and 14 leaving him in a share of fourth place.

“It was a disappointing round. I don’t think I was as focused as I needed to be on the greens. I missed a lot of putts, especially on the back nine. I couldn’t get any momentum. Any time I hit a good shot, I would miss the putt. It was probably my worst round of golf in three tournaments, so not a great time but still happy with the way I played this week,” said Lahiri.

Rose failed to mount a title charge, missing some early opportunities to eventually settle for a share of fourth position to conclude a season which saw him winning a first Major trophy at the U.S. Open.

“It was like yesterday, hit it to four foot on the first hole and missed it, and then drove it in the bunker at the second. So, momentum was difficult, and the weather was very tough. But, I’ve enjoyed my week and I’m happy to put the clubs down for a few weeks but I thought it was a really fun tournament. It’s been an amazing year,” said the Englishman.