STA. ROSA, Laguna – Steve Lewton beat Johannes Veerman in a playoff with a gutsy par from the bunker to win the 99th Solaire Philippine Open crown that nearly slipped off his grasp with a shaky finish in regulation.
Nearly blowing it all with a bogey-par-bogey windup for his first over-par card, a 75, in regulation, Lewton got out of a greenside bunker to 12 feet and drilled in the tricky, pressure-packed downhiller in the tough finishing hole of The Country Club.
Veerman reached the green in regulation but crumbled under pressure, flubbing his par putt from seven feet.
“I’m very, very happy for my victory. This is my first here and I will never foget it. This is memorable,” said Lewton, who also became the first Englishman to win Asia’s oldest National Open.
“I didn’t expect to win because I am not familiar with the course. I just played my game and luckily made it,” added Lewton, who turned in an impressive 70 and two 71s to lead in the middle rounds of the $400,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino.
He missed a 15-footer for par on the difficult par-4 18th in regulation.
Veerman, who rallied from two down to force a playoff at one-under 287, also missed winning it outright with a bogey on the last hole for a 73 then cracked after watching Lewton’s par-saving putt in the playoff drop, enabling the Northampton ace to pocket the top $72,000 purse in the event held in cooperation with Meralco and PLDT.
Veerman settled for $40,000.
Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan, three down at the start of the final round, fell farther back with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 7 but birdied No. 8 for the fourth straight day and rattled off three more in the first six holes at the back, including back-to-back from No. 14.
With Lewton scrambling for a one-over card after 15 holes, the 21-year-old Thai, in a flight ahead, forced a tie for the lead at three-under with Veerman stalking the leaders with a run of pars for a two-under card.
But Wannasrichan stumbled with a double-bogey on the par-3 17th and finished his round with a bogey for a 73. He missed joining the playoff by one with a 288 and took home $25,000.
American Blake Snyder matched par 72 for the second straight time and took solo fourth at 291 while Miguel Tabuena bounced back with an eagle on No. 10 but bogeyed No. 16 and holed out with a double-bogey for a 74.
The 2015 winner in the rain-shortened Open at Luisita finished tied for fifth at 292 with American Brett Munson, who also made a 74, Singapore’s Mitchell Slorach, who carded a 73, and Thai Suradit Yongcharoenchai, who also shot a 73.
Nicolas Paes, also of the US, turned in a 72 for ninth at 293 while Japanese Toru Nakajima ended up 10th at 294 after a 72.
Four behind Lewton after 54 holes, Tony Lascuña, the other Filipino hopeful, birdied the opening hole from close range but that was the best the reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion could offer as he stumbled with bogeys – eight – in the next 17 holes, including six at the back, as he limped home with a 79 and ended up at joint 11th at 295 with Thai Poom Saksansin, who carded a 74.
Angelo Que, winner of the Open in 2008 at Wack Wack, hobbled home with a 77 and wound up tied with Thais Chinnarat Phadungsil and Namchok Tantipokhakul, who shot 74 and 76, respectively, at 21st in the event backed by Pioneer Insurance, Lexus, BDO, Sharp, Custom Clubmaker, KZG, Empire Golf and Titleist.