Bangkok: Taiwan's Chan Shih-chang sealed a gripping last-hole victory in the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship on Sunday as golf's Asian Tour made a dramatic return after a 20-month Covid break.
Chan bagged his third Tour victory with a last round 68 to finish 18 under par for the tournament, a shot clear of Joohyung Kim of South Korea and Thailand's Sadom Kaewkanjana.
Sadom was neck and neck with Chan going into the par four 18th but he could not make home advantage count, sending his tee shot into the rough to drop a shot at the crucial moment.
"It's impossible, it's amazing!" said Chan, whose last win on the Asian Tour came in the 2016 Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup in Japan.
"I am so happy to be back after the problems everyone has had with Covid. My front nine was not very good but an eagle on nine turned things around."
Chan was joint overnight leader with Sihwan Kim, but a pedestrian start on Sunday left him three shots adrift of the American at the turn, even after eagling the ninth.
But the 35-year-old proved his mettle with a blistering back nine featuring four successive birdies to set up the last-hole shoot-out with Sadom.
"I was first to go on the tee and I thought if I can hit it on the fairway, I can put some pressure on Sadom," Chan said.
"I hit it to the left rough but Sadom was even more left in the rough."
The Thai missed a 12-foot putt for par, leaving Chan to nervelessly sink his own and claim the $180,000 winner's cheque.
Afterwards he thanked his young son.
"It's my second win since my baby boy arrived eight months ago. I guess its baby luck!" he said.
The $1 million tournament on the popular Thai holiday island of Phuket marked the first Asian Tour tee-off since the Malaysian Open in March 2020.
The players move to Phuket's Laguna Phuket Championship next week before heading to Singapore for two more events in January to finally round off the longest season in Asian Tour history.
Elsewhere, 14-year-old Thai amateur Ratchanon Chantananuwat carded eight birdies for a final round 65, ending the tournament on a highly respectable 12 under par.
Two monster putts at the start, one for par and one for birdie, set Ratchanon on his way on Sunday after he became the third youngest player to make the cut at an Asian Tour competition. -- AFP