England’s Aaron Rai battled through a rain-soaked day to prevail over compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick by signing for a one-under-par 69 to win the Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi by one-shot on Sunday.
“This win is incredible. It definitely hasn't sunk in just yet,” Rai said. “Probably need a few days for that to happen, but it's incredible to win on any tour, let alone the European Tour and let alone the Hong Kong Open. It's an incredible course, incredible event, very well supported. The crowd have been amazing. Just very grateful.”
Despite holding an overnight six-shot lead, victory at the Hong Kong Golf Club was never going to be a straight forward affair especially from a fast-charging Fitzpatrick, who was determined to put a dent to Rai’s title hopes.
Fitzpatrick stormed to the turn in 31 after reeling in three birdies including two in his opening two holes. He cut Rai’s lead to just one with a birdie on 16 but a costly bogey on 17 proved to be his undoing as he allowed Rai to open a two-shot lead heading into the final hole.
“It’s obviously disappointing on 17 there as it was such a simple bogey, but yeah, I gave it a good go,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was always going to be tough to beat him. The last two days, he's been very solid and has not given anything away, which made my life more difficult.”
After a par at the last for Fitzpatrick, Rai held a comfortable two-shot advantage that meant he could even afford to three-putt his closing hole for a winning total of 17-under-par 263.
“Matt played incredible all day,” Rai said. “It was tough, but again, I really just tried to play the course as much as possible, rather than Matt, or anyone else who was playing well today. I luckily managed to do that for most of the day. It was tough considering the situation but very pleased. Matt had been playing so well and putting so well, so I didn't expect to see that (bogey on 17) and you don't want to see that, but it did give me more of a cushion coming down 18, which was nice. It's a tough closing hole, and it's nice to have as many shots as you can coming in.”
Jason Scrivener was the best of the Australians in Hong Kong, the West Australian finishing six shots back of Rai in a tie for third, having held a share of the lead after the opening round.
India’s Shubhankar Sharma meanwhile extended his lead atop the Habitat for Humanity Standings after signing for a 67 to cap another commendable week by finishing tied for sixth with Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera bello.