Sihwan Kim triumphed in the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Stableford Challenge on the Waterside Course at Siam Country Club to secure his second Asian Tour title in the space of six weeks and cement his position at the top of the Tour’s Order of Merit.
The American won the US$750,000 tournament – which was the Asian Tour’s first ever Modified Stableford scoring event and was jointly sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour (LET) – with a total of 49 points.
Rising Swedish star Maja Stark came home in second on 47 points; Budsabakorn Sukapan from Thailand was third with 42 points; and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai finished fourth on 41 points.
Kim led after the first round with a 62 that gave him 22 points before unexpectedly crashing to a 76 on day two worth minus two points, but he started Saturday’s final round with an eight-point advantage thanks to an impressive 61 on Friday.
However, he was made to work hard all day by the chasing pack and had his lead cut to two points ahead of playing partner Stark at the turn, and three from Phachara and Korean Joohyung Kim.
And a bogey on 13 saw him hold a two-point lead over Phachara with five holes to go, before a weather delay interrupted play at 1:17pm, which lasted one hour and twenty minutes.
RIGHT: Rising star Maja Stark was second to Kim in Thailand before she heads to Australia for two weeks of tournament play. PHOTO: Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images.
But the break proved to be decisive and worked very much in the Americans favour as he made three birdies in a row immediately after the restart from 14 onwards giving him a seven point lead over Stark.
He appeared to be cruising to victory holding a seven-point lead playing the par-5 18th but, to the disbelief of everyone, he pushed his 3-wood tee shot into the trees on the right. He found his ball but had to return to the tee.
It meant Stark had an outside chance of catching Kim if she made an eagle, worth five points, but in the end a double and a 70 and seven points was enough, while Stark got a birdie, for a 66 and 13 points.
“Obviously any win is a hard win. With Phachara just going strong in the beginning that put extra pressure on me but after the restart I think that cooled Phachara off and made me hot,” said Kim.
“I just said on 18 all I need to do is make par. I was seven points ahead, all I needed to do was get it into play and I thought the wind was more into but I did kind of fan it right and I didn’t think it was going to go that far into the bushes and after that I said I just should have hit driver anyway.”
His rollercoaster day was made up of six birdies, two bogeys and one double.
He added: “This is the first time I had a 10-under and an 11-under in a tournament and my putting has just been phenomenal, that’s pretty much what got me through it, and those putts were not short either. The putts in 14 and 16 were pretty lengthy ones, I am really confident in my putting right now.”
At the beginning of last month, the 33-year-old had not won a title since turning professional in 2011 but claimed the International Series Thailand and followed that up this week with another impressive victory that validated years of patience and persistence.
Prior to winning the International Series Thailand Kim had recorded eight top-four results on the Asian Tour since 2018.
That included a fine run of form when the Asian Tour restarted at the end of last year: he was joint fourth at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship, fourth in the SMBC Singapore Open, and second in the Royal’s Cup, also in Thailand.
On each of those attempts he was in the final group on Sunday, while when he won last month he was in the penultimate group, so today’s victory allowed him to overcome any concerns he could not win from the front.
For Stark it was yet another fine performance for a 22-year-old who won three times in her rookie season last year.
“I didn’t see anyone’s tee shot on 18 so I was very surprised when he was driven back and it made me think ‘ooh it could happen’, but sadly I think I had a little bit too much adrenaline. It is not often I hit a hybrid 230m into the wind, so I think a bit too much adrenaline with that one. The chip was fine, but I should have left it past the hole,” she said.
“I’m happy with my game. My putting could have been a lot better, and my irons today weren’t very good, but I think I shot -6 and -20 is by far my best score on a four-round tournament. I’m happy with it. I feel like I have finally come back from winter golf and it being really cold and playing on even par is a fantastic score with those conditions, but I am very happy to get into the birdie and eagle mindset.”