By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Aaron Rai held off a hard-charging Matthew Fitzpatrick to claim the Hong Kong Open by a solitary shot and secure his first ever European Tour win in pouring rain at Fanling Golf Course on Sunday.
The Englishman needed all of his six-shot overnight lead to edge out compatriot Fitzpatrick as the 23-year-old’s 17-under par total, courtesy of a one-under par final round, secured him victory in the first event on the 2019 European Tour calendar.
Fitzpatrick put Rai under pressure throughout the final day’s play as he emerged from the chasing pack to hit a six-under-par 64 to finish five shots clear of third-placed pair Jason Scrivener of Australia and Frenchman Victor Perez.
The Sunday charge saw Fitzpatrick move to within a shot of the lead with two holes remaining before a bogey at the 17th, when he missed a four-foot par putt, effectively ended his title bid as Rai took a two-shot lead down the last.
That cushion meant a bogey on the final hole was good enough for Rai to secure his first win on the European Tour, and the $333,330 first prize, after three victories on the Challenger Tour.
Former U.S. Masters champions Sergio Garcia was unable to build on his impressive third round and a final day level-par 70 left him tied for sixth place with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and India’s Shubhankar Sharma on nine-under par.
British world number nine Tommy Fleetwood, who held a share of second place overnight, saw his challenge fall apart on Sunday as his three-over par round meant he finished in a five-way tie for 14th.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by John O’Brien)