HONG KONG // Lin Wen-tang birdied the second playoff hole to edge out Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari in a dramatic climax to the Hong Kong Open, becoming the event's first Asian winner in a decade. The three players had finished the co-sanctioned tournament on 15 under and the Italian Molinari was the first to be eliminated on the opening extra hole when he could manage only a par-four on the 18th before a packed gallery.
Lin appeared to blow his chances on the same hole when he pulled a drive into the rough. However, he nailed an audacious 150-yard wedge shot through a tiny gap in the trees to land his approach to within six feet of the pin and made a birdie to force a second-hole playoff with the Northern Irishman McIlroy. "At first I didn't know what to do, but I told myself to do my best to hit this shot towards the green and maybe God helped me, because I made it," Lin said.
On the next hole, the 18th again, McIlroy scuffed his drive into the left rough, while Lin drove straight down the fairway and chipped to within inches of the cup to set up his biggest victory. The last Asian to win the Hong Kong Open was the South Korean Kang Wook-soon in 1998. Lin had earlier squandered a chance to win the tournament in regulation play, missing a short birdie putt on the 18th after a brilliant approach left him a few feet short of the cup.
Lin, 34, who turned professional in 1996, is one of the island's top golfers with three Asian Tour victories under his belt. *Reuters