January 17, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia - Singaporean Mardan Mamat prevailed in a pulsating final round to claim a masterful four-shot victory at the Sabah Masters on Saturday.
At his indomitable best, the 46-year-old successfully staved off a fierce challenge from Malaysia’s Danny Chia (67) and Arie Irawan (68) to triumph at the Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club.
Even a late bogey on the 17 failed to ruffle Mamat, who notched four birdies in a closing three-under 68 to clinch his fourth ASEAN PGA Tour title with a solid 10-under-par 274 overall
Starting the final round with a four-shot cushion, Mamat came under immediate pressure from Chia, who rode a hot putter with six birdies through 11 holes, to half the deficit.
But Chia failed to narrow the gap further when he missed a short birdie putt on the 12th after Mamat had converted a five-footer of his own and the Malaysian number one suffered another unlucky break when he two-putted for bogey on the following hole to fall off the pace.
Similarly, Irawan's putting woes returned to haunt him after an inspired start as he fired blanks on the back nine to settle for a share of second alongside Chia on six-under 278.
Sabahan Ben Leong returned with a flawless 67 to finish sole fourth on 279, one stroke clear of Thailand's Sutijet Kooratanapisan (67) at the US$100,000 Tour Championship.
Indonesian amateur champion Joeh Seik finished strong with a round of 70, good for a total of 284 and a tie for ninth place. Meanwhile fellow countrymen Kurnia Herishandy and Adi Bramantio finished further down the leaderboard with scores of 295 and 303 respectively.
Picking up a cheque for US$16,675, Mamat was delighted to have preserved his four-shot overnight advantage after a hard-fought contest.
“I’ve come close a number of times at the Sabah Masters in the past and failed to finish it off, so to finally get my hands on this trophy, means a lot to me. It is nice to start off my 2015 season on a winning note and to be pushed all the way to the end for this win makes it all the more satisfying," said Mardan.
"I have to admit that Danny got off to a hot start and I had to resolutely defend my advantage. I knew that I had to shoot something like three to four-under today if I was going to be up here. Like, I've been saying all week, draining birdies were going to be crucial today and I'm very pleased with my performance - I struck the ball with a lot of conviction and my course management was excellent," he added.
He admitted that the turning point came at hole 12 when he managed to drain a tricky birdie putt while Chia did otherwise.
"I didn't expect Danny to miss that putt because he had an easier line than me. I holed my putt and began walking to the next tee when I heard the gallery gasp in despair.
"It is just one of those things that works in your favor and when he dropped a bogey on the next hole, I knew that I just had to nurse my advantage to the end," noted Mamat, who finished second on the Road to Sabah Masters rankings with a haul of US$20,085.
The veteran is enjoyed a purple patch of form and a second title is as many months after his runaway victory at the Resorts World Manila Masters at the end of last year means that he is no longer thinking about hanging up his clubs for good.
"The secret I believe is to stay healthy, keep breathing and play better golf - even when the chips are down," he quipped.
Leading final round scores (Par-71):
274 - Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 69-66-71-68
278 - Danny CHIA (MAL) 73-71-67-67, Arie IRAWAN (MAL)71-66-73-68
279 - Ben LEONG (MAL) 74-69-69-67
281 - Sutijet Kooratanpisan (THA) 69-73-72-67
282 - Masaru Takahashi (JPN) 73-66-73-70, Jay BAYRON (PHI) 72-67-73-70
283 - Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 75-71-68-69
284 - Song Gyu YOO (KOR) 72-71-72-69, Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA) 70-73-72-69, Mohd Sukree OTHMAN (MAL) 73-68-73-70, Joeh SEIK (INA - Am) 72-71-71-70, Pipatpong NAEWSUK (THA) 69-71-72-72, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 72-71-69-72
295 - Kurnia HERISHANDY (INA) 74-70-77-74
303 - Adi BRAMANTIO (INA) 75-73-76-79