Thailand made a clean sweep of the top-three places in the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour’s Terengganu Championship at Resorts World Kijal today, where Panuwat Muenlek won by three strokes.
The 30-year-old from Bangkok, who turned pro in 2005, secured his first victory outside his homeland as he shot a closing round three-under 68 to finish on 11-under 273 and left his compatriots Itthipat Buranatanyarat (68) and joint overnight leader Atthaphon Sriboonkaew (71) to settle for second place on 276.
With five pro wins in Thailand before today, Panuwat understandably said he was “very happy” to have gone all the way here and nail down the triumph.
With his Singha Thailand PGA Championship win in 2009 as his biggest victory prior to the Terengganu event, Panuwat said: “This is very good news for me and I am very happy.
“I have come close to winning outside of Thailand before, but this is the first time, so it is special for me.”
Turning to his game that saw him through the week here, he added: “I played steady golf most of the time. And in today’s round I got off to a tough start as I struggled with the putter over the first nine, but I kept going and over the back nine and it worked out well for me.”
Bogeys at the 3rd and 6th holes were split by a birdie on the 5th, which left him one-under for the front nine. But five birdies and bogey over the back nine ensured Panuwat of the title.
He put his win down, for some part, to a good short-game. “I hit the ball well with my wedges this week and it really helped me.
“Hopefully now I can go on and do better than I have at events outside of Thailand.”
Looking ahead, he added that he would focus on trying to finish in the top-five of the Asian Development Tour, who co-sanctioned the RM200,000 Terengganu Championship that also carries world ranking points.
The Asian Tour hands playing cards to the top-five of the ADT at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Atthaphon too said he was pleased with the way he played in Terengganu, despite finishing runner-up to his countryman.
“I am a little sad that I did not win but I am happy with how I played. “Now I will concentrate on next week’s tournament in Kuala Lumpur. If I can continue to play like this, and improve my putting, which let me down today, I will be very happy,” he added.
Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing rocketed up the leaderboard after firing the low score of the round – a four-under 67. He finished joint fourth with Janne Kaske of Finland (69) on seven-under 277.
American Shane Smith (71) was sixth, a stroke back on 278, while Japan’s Masaru Takahashi (71) was seventh, another two shots adrift on 280.
There was only one Malaysian in the top-10, and that comes after two of the first three ADT events of this season were won by Malaysians – Arie Irawan at the Sime Darby Harvard Championship and Wilson Choo at the LADA Langkawi Championship. Akhmal Tarmizee, who closed with fourth and final round 68, was the best placed Malaysian.
The next stop on the PGM Tour calendar is the CCM Rahman Putra Championship at Kelab Rahman Putra Malaysia, from Wednesday through Saturday (March 18-21).
Leading Fourth Round Scores
273 Panuwat Muenlek (Tha) 70-68-67-68
276 Itthipat Buranatanyarat (Tha) 68-72-68-68, Atthaphon Sriboonkaew (Tha) 68-71-66-71
277 Lam Chih Bing (Sin) 72-69-69-67, Janne Kaske (Fin) 72-67-69-69
278 Shane Smith (US) 68-70-69-71
280 Masaru Takahashi (Jpn) 71-67-71-71
281 Casey O’Toole (US) 76-69-68-68, Akhmal Tarmizee (Mas) 74-69-70-68, Lindsay Renolds (Can) 67-73-72-69, Jordan Sherratt (Aus) 72-68-70-71
283 Sutijet Kooratanapisan (Tha) 72-72-69-70
284 Luke Joy (Eng) 71-73-72-68, Brett Munson (US) 71-74-69-70, Airil Rizman Zahari (Mas) 69-76-68-71, Wisut Artjanawat (Tha) 76-69-73-66