Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 23: Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas clinched his third Asian Development Tour (ADT) title and second win of the season with a three-shot victory at the PGM MIDF ADT Championship on Saturday.
Pannakorn, the 2017 ADT Order of Merit champion, closed with two straight birdies to sign for a two-under-par 70 and a winning total of 14-under 272 at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club located in Nilai.
Local hopeful Leunkwang Kim, who shared the third round lead with Pannakorn, settled for a three-way tie for second place with compatriot M. Sasidaran and Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan after he could only muster a 73 to finish on 11-under-par 277.
Thailand’s Chonlatit Chuenboonngam and Justin De Los Santos of the Philippines both carded matching 71s to finish six shots back in fifth place at the US$54,000 event, which is the third last stop of the 19-event Tour schedule this season.
Pannakorn and Kim got the finale off to a fine start by picking up shot in their opening holes but it was the Thai who edged ahead after Kim fumbled on the second.
Although dropping a shot on hole four, Pannakorn would bounce back later on nine and 11 to open up a three-shot cushion at that point.
Not to be outdone, Kim, who had three blemishes in the first nine, charged back into contention right after the turn by firing five birdies against one bogey to draw level with Pannakorn on 13-under through 15 holes.
Pannakorn, on the other hand, had bogeys on 13 and 15.
But Kim’s hopes of adding a second ADT title to the PGM MNRB ADT Championship in September had immediately gone up in smoke when he squandered three shots over the next two holes, including a double bogey on 16.
With the pressure’s off, a buoyed Pannakorn finished off in style by sinking two back-to-back long birdie putts in the last two holes.
“I’m so happy today. This is the second time I have won this season (after the PGM Johor ADT Championship), and a third overall on the ADT.
“I didn’t play too good in the middle, but it’s okay because I managed to finish strongly.
“When Kim fumbled and I had my lead restored, I knew I had to make the opportunity counts.
“And it’s nice to finish off with two birdies. On 17, it was downhill from about 15 feet and the 18 was even more memorable as I rolled it up the slope from more than 30 feet.
“My ball-striking wasn’t the greatest this week, but I made a lot of good putts. My hot putter made the difference.
A cool US$9,529 winner’s cheque has propelled Pannakorn to second on the Order of Merit, giving him a mathematical chance to become the first ever golfer to top the ADT money list twice.
But it will be a monumental task as Pannakorn must win the remaining two events in the schedule whilst hoping Sekito, who leads by US$20,000, to miss cut in both tournaments.
“Winning the Order of Merit again? Maybe not as Sekito is really too far ahead for me to catch. But if I can win the next tournament, then we’ll see.
“But all that matters to me is to remain in the top seven until the end of the season. Now that I have gone up to second, I think I have a really good chance to secure my Asian Tour card.”