Iskandar boost for Joost

Joost Luiten © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Johor Bharu: Dutchman Joost Luiten created the sparks on the final day of the weather-shortened US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open today, overcoming a four-stroke deficit to lift the title –  his first on the European Tour.

The 25-year-old closed with a flawless round of 65 for a three-round total of 198, edging past overnight leader Daniel Chopra  by one stroke at the Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club. The victory earned Luiten US$333,330 in the fifth edition of the tournament, which was jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.

Daniel Chopra © Khalid Redza / Asian Tour

Chopra narrowly missed his 20 foot eagle putt on the last hole to force a play-off and settled for second with a final round 70. The trio of Rhys Davies, James Morrison and reigning champion Padraig Harrington were a further shot behind on 13-under 200 while Frenchman Gregory Bourdy took sole possession of fourth on 201.

Birthday boy Siddikur Rahman, who turned 26 today, took a share of 15th on eight-under  205 alongside Shiv Kapur, Thongchai Jaidee and Charlie Wi as the best placed Asians.

Luiten, who has six 10-tops this year, turned in 30 highlighted by a hat-trick of birdies from the second hole before adding another birdie on 11 to win his first European Tour title. Playing on the second last flight, Luiten had an agonizing wait but revelled in delight when Chopra missed his eagle putt on the last which would have forced a play-off.

“Well it is always tough to get your first Tour win and you’ll always believe that you’ll get a good one. I’ve come close for a few times and I’m really relieved to finally win and looking for the next one,” said the 25-year-old, who won US$333,330 with a winning total of 15-under-par 198.

“I knew at the beginning of the week that it will be raining season here so it didn’t really bother me. You just need to relax when the delay comes and accept it. You can’t let it get to you or it will affect your round,” said Luiten, who wears two gloves for a better grip.

Chopra, who held a two-shot lead after play was suspended yesterday, was disappointed not to recapture the title he won way back in 1993. His title hopes looked to have faded after a double bogey on seven but the two-time PGA Tour winner battled back with three birdies in his closing six holes to finish lone second.

“I was very disappointed because I hit the ball really nicely (the double bogey). It was really the only bad shot I made all day. I had a bad break there but I knew there was a long way to go and if I could get some birdies, I would still have a chance to win. I just tried to stay patient,” said Chopra, who grew up in India.

“It is a great way to finish the year. It has been a long hard working year and it is nice to have this good finish at the end of the year. It gives you some encouragement for the next year,” added the Swede, who earned his 2012 PGA Tour card through the Nationwide Tour this year.

Siddikur was delighted with his strong finish but rued the opportunity of sealing a better result when he missed a five feet birdie putt on the last.

“Overall, it was a good round and I’m happy with how I played especially since I missed the cut in Singapore. I have two more events before the end of the year and I’m quite confident of doing well there,” said Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour.

Leading final round scores (tournament shortened to 54 holes due to inclement weather)

198 Joost Luiten (NED 63-70-65
199 Daniel Chopra (SWE) 64-65-70
200 Padraig Harrington (IRE) 64-67-69; James Morrison (ENG) 66-65-69; Rhys Davies (WAL) 70-65-65
201 Gregory Bourdy (FRA) 64-67-70
202 Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 71-64-67
203 Marcus Fraser (AUS) 64-70-69; Jose Manuel Lara (ESP) 67-67-69; Darren Beck (AUS) 70-65-68; Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE) 68-67-68; Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 69-67-67
204 Soren Hansen (DEN) 68-67-69; Marcel Siem (GER) 69-67-68