WI FOR VICTORY
Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - Korean produces winning touch at 18 to cash in on his biggest win
Charlie Wi receives the Seagram Trophy from the Deputy Prime Minister
by Roger Rodrigo
South Korean Charlie Wi came from behind to win the US$1.25 million Maybank Malaysian Open on Sunday, ending Thai Thongchai Jaidee's chances of winning his third successive title.
Wi produced a stunning final round of nine-under 63, which included seven birdies and an eagle en route to a 19-under 197 total which left him one shot ahead of Thongchai.
"Coming here I wasn't expected to win," said Wi, who picked up a winner’s cheque of US$208,330. "I had no idea I would make so many putts like I did today. God was looking out for me as I got a lot of breaks today."
"And then Thongchai misses that putt on the last hole which really helped me win the championship. I just feel fortunate all the hard work is paying off," added Wi.
In a tournament shortened to 54 holes because of thunderstorms, the 34-year-old Wi improved through the rounds and then edged his old nemesis, Thongchai in a tight finish on Sunday.
After the tournament was halted for the third time due to lightning on Saturday, tournament organizers decided that there wasn’t enough time to finish a 72- hole tournament, especially if another delay should occur and thus decided that the tournament would be based on 54 holes.
This is the first time since the tournament became joint-sanctioned between the Asian Tour and the European Tour in 1999 that the outcome has been decided on less than 72 holes.
That decision paved the way for a tension-packed finish on Sunday, with several players chasing the lead until the closing stages when it became clear who was truly in the chase. Wi, who was three shots behind leader Thamanoon Srirot, soon moved into contention and so did Thongchai, who was hunting for the
unprecedented treble of titles, having won in 2004 and 2005.
Wi soon threw down the gauntlet to his rivals who came in the form of Thongchai, France’s Raphael Jacquelin and Englishman Mark Foster. Wi began his title chase with a birdie on the fourth, followed by a
30-foot eagle on the fifth adding two more on seven and nine for a front-nine 31.
Unfazed by the opposition, Wi continued his scoring streak, grabbing the lead with birdies on the 10th, 13th and 16th holes before making the most important decision of his round – laying up from the
rough at the par-4 17th. He pulled his 5-wood second shot slightly and the ball struck a tiny rock and bounced into the right rough. But he kept his nerve,
and recovered from the tall grass to save par.
“I didn’t have a shot at the green so I told myself to be patient. I knew I had a good wedge game, so I laid up and gave myself a par chance. I think that was
the turning point,” related the Korean. “I was really proud I was able to deal with the situation in such a
Looking up at the leaderboard at 17, Wi had no idea that Thongchai had birdied the 16th, which was probably as well for the Korean as he played the 18th
without undue pressure. There he conjured the shot that won the Maybank Malaysian Open – his third, landing to five feet for a birdie to go 19-under.
Again, Wi was under the impression that he held the outright lead before the putt. “I thought for sure that would give me a two-shot lead. I didn’t have any
idea I was tied for the lead. The putt went in and I feel very fortunate,” he added.
Lady Luck indeed was smiling on Wi, who became the second Korean after K. J. Choi to win on the European Tour. But the same couldn’t be said of Thongchai, who fought tooth-and-nail throughout the round, coming within a whisker of forcing a play-off. Two crucial birdie putts on 17 and 18, from 20 and 18 feet respectively, missed and the redoubtable Thai was
relegated to a bridesmaid’s role.
Watching anxiously from the clubhouse, Wi saw the Thai tee off on the par-5 18th needing a birdie to force the extra-hole showdown. Thongchai was the only player among the overnight leaders to sustain his
challenge as players like second-round leader David Park of England and Thammanoon floundere