Thursday, September 21, 2017

Norris cruises to Open victory

After an astounding day three at the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open from Shaun Norris, the South African carded a final-round 71 in occasionally blustery conditions to finish 24-under-par and take home the US$135,000 prize.

Shaun Norris of South Africa poses with the first place trophy from the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open yesterday at Royal Mingalardon. Photo: AsianTourShaun Norris of South Africa poses with the first place trophy from the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open yesterday at Royal Mingalardon. Photo: AsianTour

Norris went into the final day of Myanmar’s richest individual sporting event with a lead of seven shots after an 11-under-par 61, that followed dual rounds of 66 to leave the now multiple Asian-Tour event winner a seven-shot lead over his rivals.

Wang Jeung, the bookies’ favourite, made a run at him yesterday. The youngster from South Korea with a fluid swing attacked the front-nine and narrowed the gap to just three at the turn, as Norris struggled to replicate the form that left the chasing pack in his wake only one day earlier.

The Myanmar Open’s last leg was blessed by comparatively cool weather that attracted hundreds of spectators to follow the final group at Royal Mingalardon. But that cool weather came on the breeze that changed the nature of the course and saw Norris struggle for the first half of the day. A front nine the player had completed in only 29 shots during the Saturday round required 38 shots to complete on Sunday.

SSP Chawrasia studies his approach trajectory. Photo: Asian TourSSP Chawrasia studies his approach trajectory. Photo: Asian Tour

‘The conditions were not easy from the start. When I stepped out of the hotel this morning, it was gusty and it was blowing. I knew scoring was not going to be easy. I tried to give myself chances early but I hit several bad shots in the wrong places. The wind really got me in the front nine and confused me,” Norris told media after his win.

But the winner of the 2015 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship title in 2015 settled his game on the back nine to force his opponents into finding a way to card a low total.

“I knew there was a couple of short holes in the back nine and at the end of the day they still have to catch me. I just told myself to get back into the swing of things and get my rhythm back,” he said.

They could not, however, and when Norris birdied the 14th before a superb tee-shot at the par-three 15th placed him within inches of the hole, any doubt that Norris would not claim his second title on the Asian Tour had disappeared.

“The birdie on 11 definitely got me going and the birdie on 14 was a bonus. I then turned and told my caddie, ‘We actually don’t have to do too much, just play our game. They got to catch us,’” said Norris.

Junwon Park finished tied with Yano for second. Photo: Asian TourJunwon Park finished tied with Yano for second. Photo: Asian Tour

Wang also admitted that by the 14th there was little he could do.

“I thought I could give Shaun a run for his money especially at the turn. But I missed several birdie chances in my back nine. I could only par the next four holes starting from 10. But when the next birdie came on 14, it was already too late as Shaun’s lead was too wide already,” said Wang.

As if relieved by the certainty of it all, the South African’s playing partners in the final group Park Junwon of South Korea and Azuma Yano of Japan finished strongly over the final holes to claim birdies, leap-frog Wang and share second place.

“Starting out, I knew that the seven-shot gap was a gap too wide. So I was looking at second place, to be honest. It’s a very good result and it has given me an early-season boost,” said Yano, a Japan Golf Tour member who went on to compliment the strength of field from the Asian Tour.

Azuma Yano celebrates a birdie putt. Photo: Asian TourAzuma Yano celebrates a birdie putt. Photo: Asian Tour

Norris’s win gives him a three-year exemption to all Asian Tour events and a two-year exemption on the Japan Golf Tour that was co-sanctioning this event for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to the year. Obviously it’s nice to reach a high point early in the year and I want to raise the bar higher for the rest of the season,” added Norris.

The award for the highest-ranking Myanmar player went to Aung Win. The only local golfer to make the cut at 4-under on Friday, he maintained that score to finish tied for 54th and take home $2775, a prize similar in amount to the K3 million awarded for a win on the Myanmar Golf Tour.

The Asian Tour now moves on to next week’s Bangladesh Open, where Myanmar has interest courtesy of Ye Htet Aung who will be playing for a cut of the $300,000 prize pot. Following that stop the Tour moves to the Maybank Malaysian Open, a $3 million event co-sanctioned with the European Tour, where Zaw Zaw Latt will take to the fairways.

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