Aguilar's magic wand
Chilean pulls out a magical finish over the final two holes to break Hansen's heart
Ripped. Shattered. Destroyed.
The word destrozo was bandied about excitedly by the Spanish-speaking golfers at the scoring booth, after a roar erupted at the 18th hole of Laguna National's Masters Course yesterday.
Chile's Felipe Aguilar had just holed out from 141 yards for an improbable eagle to take the clubhouse lead in The Championship, a tournament co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, and which carried a US$1.5 million ($1.88m) purse.
It was an incredible moment and there was much excitement as the Spanish word destrozo came up repeatedly, because, after all, it is rare even at the highest levels for a golfer to produce such a spectacular finish to win an event.
But that was exactly what Aguilar did, sinking a birdie at the par-three 17th followed by the stunning eagle at the par-four final hole for him to surge past Denmark's Anders Hansen and win by a shot.
BEST CAREER SHOT
The leader of the first three rounds, Thailand's Pittayarat Panuphol, also wilted as his two-over 74 final round was only good enough for a share of 11th spot.
"That has to be the best shot of my career," said Aguilar, who collected his second victory on the European Tour after a six-year drought, and pocketed a cool US$250,000 winner's cheque.
The Chilean began the day four shots off the pace and made just two birdies on his opening nine holes, but his round came to life after the turn.
"Yesterday I thought I had no chance, and, after I made just two birdies on the front nine, I didn't really think about it," he said.
"But the greens have been absolutely amazing and I took just 10 putts on the back nine."
Recalling what went through his mind at the closing hole, Aguilar said: "After I made birdie on the 17th, I said to my caddie (Omar Peralta), 'If we can make a birdie on 18, we can put some pressure on the leader', and he said, 'What about making two?'
"I got a bit lucky, but it's a really special way to win this event."
Interestingly, Aguilar's last victory on the European Tour was at the 2008 Indonesian Open, where he again won with a birdie on the last hole.
"I'm from South America, I rather play in the heat in this region, especially as I'm recovering from a wrist injury that kept me out for six weeks," added Aguilar.
Hansen, though, didn't look like he could handle the heat as he dropped a shot at the par-four 16th and couldn't conjure a birdie on either of the last two holes to force a play-off.
Looking shattered after the final day of action, the 43-year-old said: "Aguilar had a good day, played well obviously. I thought I played well. I don't know what to say.
"It's just really disappointing. The 17th and the 18th are not that difficult but, for Aguilar to hole his second shot, I don't know what to say."
266: Felipe Aguilar 65, 67, 72, 62
267: Anders Hansen 67, 66, 67, 67; David Lipsky 64, 68, 70, 65
269: Rahil Gangjee 66, 67, 71, 65
270: Chris Wood 68, 67, 68, 67
279: Ross Fisher 73, 67, 68, 71
281: Lam Chih Beng 71, 67, 72, 71
282: Brett Rumford 70, 67, 70, 75
285: Jeev Milkha Singh 67, 72, 74, 72
287: Quincy Quek 64, 74, 72, 77.
Hope for more international events here
Even as the future of the Singapore Open remains uncertain, the successful staging of The Championship at Laguna National's Masters Course last week would have cheered the hearts of many local golf fans.
Formerly known as the Ballantine's Championship, the event was held at South Korea's Blackstone Golf Club from 2008 to 2013, but was moved to Singapore at the last minute this year after it lost its title sponsors.
Whether the tournament secures a new title sponsor and returns to Singapore next year, or moves to another country or even returns to South Korea, is still up in the air.
But the successful staging of The Championship has once again put Singapore on the map.
Speaking after the final round yesterday, European Tour tournament director David Williams told The New Paper: "Laguna has done a great job this week to host this event at such short notice. We are definitely interested to have a European Tour event here, co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
"The conditions here are great, it's a beautiful city and it's a great playing opportunity for many Asian golfers and Singaporean golfers.
NO POTENTIAL SUITORS
"It's always not easy to find sponsors, but what the organisers have done here was they found many smaller sponsors in three weeks.
"That could be the way to go, but with more lead time, a big sponsor is always possible.
"It would be great to have the Singapore Open back on the programme every year."
The Singapore Open was revived in 2005 after a three-year absence due to a lack of sponsorship.
Up until 2012, the Singapore Open had been held for eight years at the Sentosa Golf Club, but Barclays ended their seven-year sponsorship of the tournament and there have been no developments yet on potential suitors.
Lam Chih Beng, who was the Republic's best finisher at The Championship in joint-47th spot, hopes there won't be another long break before the next international event rolls around.
"Singapore is always capable of hosting a world-class golf tournament as we have got world-class golf courses," said the 37-year-old.
"Growing up, we used to have the Rolex Masters and Singapore Open... I used to go and watch and that's what made me want to be a professional golfer. It's nice to see some kids out here... they were probably in my position 20, 25 years ago."
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