Himmat wins ISPS Handa Classic for maiden Asian Tour title

Singapore: Himmat Rai claimed an enthralling five-way play-off victory at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on Sunday, holing a stunning 25-foot birdie putt on the sixth extra hole to secure his maiden Asian Tour title.

The 24-year-old Indian went the distance with Filipino Elmer Salvador at the Orchid Country Club after Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk, South African Tjaart Van Der Walt and Brazilian Adilson Da Silva bowed out after the second play-off hole.

All five players tied on nine-under-par 271 in regulation play was the most number of golfers in a play-off in Asian Tour history.

It was a toe-to-toe battle between Himmat and Filipino Elmer Salvador, who went through four more holes of very high quality. Himmat nailed the winning putt in fading light to earn USD 47,550 and also a priceless two-year exemption on the Asian Tour.

Himmat reached the green in two and Da Silva missed. But Da Silva chipped well to get close to the pin and tapped for a par. The Indian needed to hole a 25-footer for a win and he calmly sank it and achieved his breakthrough win.

"I can`t believe that I`ve pulled it off. I was just trying to improve my score (as he was four back on the back nine) and the playoff was splendid. I stuck to my routine and thoroughly pleased with my finish. It`s very sweet and special," said Himmat.

Himmat, whose previous best was third at Iskandar Johor Open in 2009, where he pushed the eventual winner KJ Choi, also said that it was a great feeling to finally land the first title.

Himmat, who signed off with a one-over-par 71, double bogeyed the 13th hole to fall back on the leaderboard but charged home with birdies on 15 and 16 while long time pacesetter Da Silva dropped a costly double bogey on the 15th hole. In extra time, the play-off was riveting with Salvador holing a long birdie putt on the second extra hole and pulling off wonderful shots before losing.

"I just knew I had to close it soon before things got out of hand (with the darkness). I gave myself a good chance. That putt, sometimes when you`re under pressure, you tend to rush it but I thought if I don`t close it, the game would go otherwise. I hit a solid putt. I was lucky it went in.

"Elmer hung tough. He made some great shots. But this is immense. One of my goals was to win one this year. I`ve grown from strength to strength. I look forward to achieving more," said Himmat.

In 2010, Himmat had a very modest season, failing to get any top-10s. His best being tied 12th at Myanmar Open. He had two other top-10 finishes but he failed to keep his card in 2010. He fought his way back through Asian Tour Qualifying School, where he finished tied fifth.

This season he was tied seventh at Panasonic Open (India) but this win now assures Himmat an exemption through this year as well as next two, including a passage into big events like the Singapore and the Hong Kong Open.

Meanwhile, Anirban Lahiri, the last Indian to win on the Asian Tour in April, was 31st after a final round of 70 and he was one-under for the week.

Abhishek Jha (72), Vinod Kumar (72) and Ashok Kumar (70) were all tied for 42nd at one-over 281. Sujjan Singh (71) was tied 47th at two-over and Mandeo Pathania (74) was 69th at eight-over 288.

This is the third Asian Tour title for an Indian after SSP Chowrasia`s win at Avantha Masters, which was joint sanctioned with European Tour, and Anirban Lahiri, who won the Panasonic Open (India).

Gaganjeet Bhullar also won the Kensville Open which was a European Challenge Tour event.

While the other three won at home, Himmat is the first Indian to win outside India this year.


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