WHAT an epic finale it was in the Maybank Championship as Australia’s Scott Hend showed nerves of steel to emerge as the champion.
It was a dramatic battle until the end at the Saujana Golf and Country club but Hend stayed cool to end his three-year title drought by edging Nacho Elvira of Spain in the playoff after both were tied at 273 yesterday.
The 45-year-old calmly rolled a close-range birdie putt on the first extra hole at the par-five 18th for his first triumph since winning the Asian Tour’s Queen’s Cup in Thailand in 2016.
The win was his third European Tour title and 10th on the Asian Tour, becoming only the fourth golfer to reach the milestone.
Hend was holding a one-shot advantage at that point but when the play resumed at 4.30pm, Elvira drained a sensational 30-foot birdie putt to match Hend’s 15-under 273 total in the regulation play to force a decider.
In the end, it was Hend who had the last laugh.
“Obviously I had a bit of luck on the playoff hole. If you don’t have any luck you won’t win,” said Hend, who collected a whopping US$500,000 (RM2.03mil) for his brilliant effort.
“I had the luck today, unfortunately it was not so for Nacho. His time will come, he’s going to win. He’s a great player.”
Earlier in the day, Hend fought his way back from a three-shot deficit to overtake overnight leader Elvira and even led by two strokes in the closing stages.
But the spirited Spaniard bounced back with two birdies in his last three holes to keep his hopes alive.
Said Hend: “I’m a grinder and a fighter. So is my caddie Tony (Carolan). We both have the same mental attitude. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we work hard at what we do.”
Elvira was not disheartened despite missing out on his first win in his 140th start on the European Tour.
It was also his second runner-up finish in as many starts after coming in joint second at the Qatar Masters two weeks ago.
“I tried to give it all on the playoff hole. I just missed my driver a little bit and gave myself a little chance to make birdie, but I’m happy,” he said.
“Lifting trophies is the point, that’s what we try to do every week. Hopefully it works out soon.”