Joaquin Niemann and Ashleigh Buhai claimed historic wins in the ISPS Handa Australian Open Championship at The Australian Golf Club late today.
Buhai made it back-to-back titles after her stellar win at Victoria Golf Club, while Niemann stormed home from four back of the overnight leaders with a withering final round five under par 66.
Starting the day with a three-shot lead from her nearest competitor would always be a battle for Buhai’s chasers, led by 2013 Jiyai Shin and Aussie Minjee Lee, who was looking for her first national title.
With the resolve that has taken her to a couple of majors, Lee didn’t disappoint and went about hunting down the leader. Buhai helped the cause with an early stumble, and with a classic Minjee Lee rally, by the 17th, the lead was all but gone.
Sadly, that was as far as it got, and with Lee unable to make a birdie on the last, Buhai two-putted for victory.
Stephanie Kyriacou was the best placed of the NSW contingent, closing with a 73 for a tie for 5th, but her four-round total of 286 left her well out of contention.
Joaquin Niemann will undoubtedly be savouring his win in this year’s Australian Open for a long time.
Victory at The Australian Golf Club will see his name etched on the Stonehaven Cup and assures the LIV Golf Star a spot in the 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon in July.
The result, however, could have gone anyway throughout a riveting final day.
Overnight leader Min Woo Lee didn’t bring his best to the table, and after a couple of bogeys on the front nine, many in the gallery hoped a turnaround would come.
Adam Scott staged a move for the ages and, at one point, took the lead at 14 under. However, it didn’t last long when disaster struck on the 7th (his 16th), and his day was done.
Lucas Herbert also made a move early, then promptly destroyed his chances with a triple bogey on the 9th.
Hanging around was Min Woo’s playing partner, Rikuya Hoshino, who, despite a slow start on the front nine, managed to roll in two birdies, including a clutch 15-footer on the 17th to catch Niemann, who had finished almost an hour earlier.
The Japanese star had his chance to win outright on the last, but he failed to make what to many has been a routine birdie on probably the most accessible par five on the course. A par left Hoshino tied for the lead with Niemann, and a playoff ensued.
It took two trips down the 18th to split the combatants, the first extra hole split in birdies before Niemann rifled his second shot to about two metres for an eagle.
Hoshino did his bit once more by making birdie, but to the relief of the Chilean, he didn’t miss the eagle putt the second time around, fist pumping as the ball dropped to win the Championship.
Like the women, the NSW contingent was a long way back. Best placed in was Sam Brazel, (who played alongside Niemann) in a tie for 8th after he could only manage even par. Jeffrey Guan was the next best, dropping into a tie for 21st after carding a two over 73.