#RWMMasters Rewind: Nice win Natipong!

Mon 07 Nov 2016

#RWMMasters Rewind: Nice win Natipong!

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November 7: Thailand’s Natipong Srithong won his first Asian Tour title at the 2015 Resorts World Manila Masters in sensational style. A year has passed and the Resorts World Manila Masters returns to celebrate its fourth edition as the richest golf tournament in the Philippines from November 10 to 13. Relive last year’s action below. To read the full copy in text and photos, please visit http://flipbook.digiflip.com/AsianTour/Y2016/flipviewerxpress.html
Surprise! Natipong is the new Master
From juggling between his university text books and a fledgling professional golf career, rookie Natipong Srithong certainly had a lot on his plate.
First up on his “To Do” list was to write to as many tournament sponsors in hope of securing invitations into Asian Tour events while on the horizon was also to submit his 2016 Asian Tour Qualifying School forms.
And then, there was also the need to prepare for his final year university examinations where he is a law undergraduate.
With so much going on, the 22-year-old, who joined the play-for-pay ranks in September after winning the individual and team gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games, was least expected to waltz his way into the winner’s enclosure so soon.
But such is the nature of the game in the modern era that newbies are now proving themselves capable of matching the established golf stars with their skill and bravado.
The Thai newcomer first caught the eye with a tied third finish at the weather-shortened Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Taipei. And then at the World Classic Championship in Singapore, he was amongst the first round leaders before watching fellow rookie Danthai Boonma hosting the trophy.
Natipong remained under the radar at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters, entering the final round some four shots back at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club. But like a bolt from out of the blue, Natipong was soon donning the scarlet red winner’s jacket that is worn by the new Master of the richest golf tournament in the Philippines.
A brilliant final round of five-under-par 67 saw the young Thai come from behind to pip a luckless Jbe Kruger of South Africa to lift the Resorts World Manila Masters title while overnight leader Hung Chien-yao of Chinese Taipei shared third place with compatriot Lee Chieh-poh.
“I was really motivated to play well because I have no status on the Asian Tour. I thought if I didn’t win, I will go to Qualifying School. I don’t have to anymore,” smiled Natipong, who earned US$180,000 with his week’s total of 15-under-par 273.
“I kept telling myself to stay calm. In the last few tournaments, I got excited about being in contention but I ended up not playing well. Today, I kept reminding myself to keep calm. I took it one shot at a time and played at my own pace. I tried not to get ahead of myself out there.”
Natipong easily found inspiration to succeed as he roomed with countryman Danthai in his first few weeks out on Tour.
“Seeing Danthai winning was an inspiration. He was my roommate and after he won, he said it will be my turn soon. I didn’t expect it to be so soon,”” added Natipong, who holed crucial birdies on 12, 15 and 17 to win his first professional title in what was only his fourth start.
The final round initially looked like it was going to be Kruger’s day. The power-packed South African was in control, holding a three-shot lead before his game unraveled around the turn with mistakes that cost him three shots. Needing an eagle on the closing par five hole, Kruger lipped out his chip attempt.
“If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be,” lamented the 29-year-old Kruger.
“I had a difficult shot on nine and then I just hit a terrible shot on 10. Tried to fight back and hit it close a few times but the putts didn’t want to drop. On the last, I knew I had to make eagle and I nearly did. It shows it wasn’t meant to be. The chip ran over the lip.”
Shot of the day belonged to Hung who endured a horrific start where he dropped four shots in six holes before fighting back with a magical hole in one on 13 with a finely struck two iron tee shot that won him a VIP aircraft service package worth US$250,000 within the Philippines by Red Tail Aviation.
Hung, chasing a first win, was tied for the lead with one to play but an errant drive proved costly. “I never expected the ball to go in on 13. I was just hoping to put it on the green and the ball disappeared. I knew I was in a share of the lead coming to the last. My tee shots have been great the whole week and I didn’t expect to hit it off the mark at the last,” he said.