Chapchai Nirat of Thailand won his first European Tour title on Sunday, a solid final round of 71 being enough to secure a comfortable three stroke victory in the TCL Classic with a final total of 22-under par.
Nirat led by five strokes going into the final day at the Yalong Bay GC on China’s Hainan Island – largely due to a sensational opening round of 61, which was a course record. The 23 year-old easily held off the spirited challenge of Argentina’s Rafael Echenique, who carded a final round of 68 to take second place at -19.
There was further joy for Thai golf fans as Prayad Marksaeng took third place ahead of England’s James Heath and Australia’s Simon Nash. European Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood (-12) and Paul McGinley (-9) will have been disappointed to finish so far behind the winner, but there were further promising displays by the up-and-coming British duo of Marc Warren (-12) and Oliver Fisher (-11).
Nirat’s maiden victory means he now has the security of a two-year exemption on the European Tour, and he was understandably delighted to have played so consistently over the four days.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I talked to my caddie and we agreed that I just had to play like I had the first three days,” he said.
“On the back nine Rafael was getting quite close so I didn’t want to make any mistakes. At the end I was very happy and I am delighted to have clinched my first win on the European Tour.”
TCL CLASSIC – LEADING SCORES
Yalong Bay GC, Hainan Island, China
GB&I unless stated
-22 C Nirat (Tha)
-19 R Echenique (Arg)
-17 P Marksaeng (Tha)
-16 S Nash (Aus), J Heath