Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong defeated Ajeetesh Sandhu from India on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off to claim The DGC Open presented by Mastercard today after a compelling finish to the inaugural event on the iconic Lodhi course at Delhi Golf Club (DGC).
Nitithorn made a brilliant birdie four on the par-five 18th to win his first event on the Asian Tour after Sandhu holed out for par – in what was the fourth event on the 2022 schedule.
The duo had finished tied for 72 holes on seven under after Nitithorn, the overnight leader by two from Sandhu, closed with a one-over-par 73 and Sandhu 71.
Thailand’s Settee Prakongvech ended one shot short of the play-off after returning 71 to finish outright third for his best Asian Tour result, while Gaganjeet Bhullar from India carded 72, to claim solo fourth, two strokes further back.
Nitithorn lived up to his nickname “Fever” by raising the temperature of his game on the famous 18th at DGC. Tied with playing-partner Sandhu on the last in normal time, he holed a 10 footer for birdie which forced his Indian opponent to make his four from five feet to send the tournament into overtime.
The 25-year-old Thai golfer then reached the green with two fine shots in the play-off leaving himself a 15-foot eagle putt while Sandhu found the putting surface in three having landed in trouble off the tee. After Sandhu missed his birdie attempt from 18 feet, Nitithorn triumphantly two putted to earn a cheque for US$90,000.
“I can’t describe my feeling right now. To win on the Asian Tour I have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Nitithorn, a professional since 2015 whose biggest win to date had been the 2018 PGM Penang Championship on the Asian Development Tour in 2018.
“I cannot describe my feelings, it is incredible, it’s amazing. I didn’t putt so good today. I just tried to hit it on the green and make the putts, but I couldn’t make them.
“On the 14th, where I made bogey, I was so nervous there, but I did not lose my mind. I just focused on everything that I can, and just play. In the play off I wasn’t as nervous as in normal time. I felt more free and so comfortable.”
The tournament developed into a classic two-horse race with Nitithorn appearing to be on course for victory after staying two ahead after nine before he made bogey on 10, 14 and 16.
Birdies on 13 and 14 meant Sandhu was two ahead with two to go but to the shock of the strong local support the Indian golfer pushed his tee shot right on the par-three 17th, lost his ball, and ended up making a double bogey while Nitithorn made par to draw level and set up the dramatic finish on 18.
Said Sandhu: “It was a good week. Looking back, I’ll definitely take a lot from it. It was disappointing how it finished but that’s golf. You always have to keep coming back from disasters. No regrets because while competing you’re always trying your best.
“In hindsight, I would say on the 17th I tried to hit a shot which was not a high percentage one. I tried to move it with the wind to go into the flag but just didn’t make a good swing.”
Justin Quiban from the Philippines produced his joint best finish on the Asian Tour when he was fifth on three under after shooting a 70.
India’s Shiv Kapur, a four-time winner on the Asian Tour, carded a 68 and was in a group of players who finished a stroke further back in joint sixth.
The next event on the Asian Tour is the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup at Siam Country Club in Thailand from April 7-10.