American rookie David Lipsky kept his heart warm and head cool when cupping a sensational chip-in birdie in the first playoff hole to nose out Elmer Salvador of the Philippines on the way to victory in the inaugural US$300,000 Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic at the Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap on Saturday.
Six-time Major winner Sir Nick Faldo was a witness to the unfolding drama as the 23-year-old of Korean descent produced an unbelievable chip in the shoot-out to pick up his maiden professional trophy since turning pro last year.
It was a case of history cruelly repeating itself for the veteran Salvador, who was beaten at the post in a playoff at last year’s 2011 ISPS Handa Singapore Classic.
The 42-year-old was within one birdie putt at the last hole to win outright during regulation play on Saturday, but missed from about three metres to card a final score of 68, even as Lipsky caught up with a stunning seven-under-par 65 for a 15-under total of 273.
“My putting was sometimes good, sometimes bad. On [hole] 14, I had a putter-length chance for a birdie, but I didn’t get it in. On 18, I charged my putt and my line was not good. That was my chance,” Salvador reflected on those baying moments.
“It was a good chip by Lipsky, it was like a billiard shot. The way he stopped the ball [into the hole]. Can’t do anything about that.
“I still feel happy. Two times losing in a play-off now, I don’t know why. I’ll keep trying.”
When he set out to break his maiden ranks on Saturday morning, Lipsky was seven shots off the pace.
It was a frenetic chase as the lead rotated among six players and the prospects of a blanket finish seemed certain.
But it was Lipsky and Salvador who elbowed the rest for a sprint to the line.
“I really can’t believe I’m here right now,” said a jubilant Lipsky, who earned US$47,550 and an equally valuable winner’s exemption on the Asian Tour until the end of 2014.
Lipsky’s test of mental toughness had come at the 15th hole of his final round.
“I won Q-school, and I knew I had the game in me. I’m happy it showed up here. On 15, I saw that everyone was bunched on 13-under. I had a 50-foot putt [for birdie] and I jarred it and thought I could have a chance to win,” said Lipsky, who went on to birdie the 16th hole to pull ahead of the rest.
“This is phenomenal, as it opens up so many doors for me. Apparently, I’m in the winner’s category now, and I didn’t know what that meant. I guess I’ll find out.”
The sensation clearly is yet to sink in for Los Angeles-based Lipsky, who credits his victory to his coach and words of advice from Luke Donald via Twitter.
Impressive Irishman Niall Turner was one putt shy in the end of forcing his way into the playoff after an even-par 72.
He had to settle for third place, which gives him a spot in the sixth leg of the Asian Tour, The Panasonic Open in India, beginning in two weeks’ time.
“It wasn’t meant to be. I just couldn’t get a putt to drop. I guess I was trying too hard to make the putts instead of letting it happen,” the lanky Irishman said.
“That was my goal, to finish top five. I guess I accomplished that. But having a chance to win, that’s disappointing. But I’ll take a ton of positives from this; it’s been a great week.”
Into his second season, Finland’s Kalle Samooja, who shot a closing 65, touched his Tour best with a tied fourth placing in the company of early pace-setters Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil and Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun on 275.
Carrying a one-shot, third-round lead into the final day, Kim Hyung-sung slipped on a banana peel to end up joint seventh, signing off with a sloppy 75, a far cry from his three previous fiery rounds.