Steel clinches long-awaited title

Iain Steel
Iain Steel

Taipei: Iain Steel came from six strokes behind to earn a deserved victory with a sizzling final round eight-under-par 64 at the Ballantine’s Taiwan Championship on Sunday.

After four days of intense battle, the Malaysian finally emerged top of the field when he fired 10 birdies against two bogeys to sign off with a winning total of 11-under-par 277 at the US$110,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event, which is the richest tournament on the schedule.

Australian rookie Daniel Bringolf settled for second place after closing with a 69 while England’s Steve Lewton, who led after the first two rounds, closed with a 72 to share third place with overnight leader, Yeh Wei-tze of Chinese Taipei on matching 280s at the Sunrise Golf and Country Club.

Canadian Lindsay Renolds and local amateur Lee Chieh-po carded rounds of 73 and 74 respectively to finish a further shot back on equal fifth while three-time Asian Tour winner Lu Wei-chih, who made a comeback after taking a year’s medical leave to recover from a brain tumour surgery, settled for seventh place on 283.

Steel’s victory was a welcome relief as he had to endure years of frustration of missing out on a grandstand finish that was caused largely by a back injury.

“This win means a lot to me. It definitely boosted my confidence, a lot. I’ve been suffering from a back injury for two years now and it has kind of sidelined my game as I have to cope with a sore back most of the time,” said Steel. “However, I’ve been telling myself that I can still compete. I guess I’ve proved myself right this week,” added the 42-year-old, who is one of the most experienced golfers on the Asian Tour.

Steel’s closest claim to fame on the Asian Tour came in 2007 when he narrowly lost to China’s Liang Wen-chong in a play-off at the Singapore Masters. While Steel spends most of his time playing on the ADT today, he is delighted to know that he can still compete at the highest level and has the opportunity to move up the world rankings with his win.

“I’ve been playing consistently on the ADT since the start of the season and I came into contention for a couple of times. It took me a while to adjust to playing on the ADT after playing on the Asian Tour earlier for six to seven years,” said Steel.

“The world ranking points are a bonus for players and it makes the field on the ADT stronger as well,” added Steel, who took home the winner’s prize purse of US$20,000 which propelled him to fourth on the ADT Order of Merit.

He also received six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points courtesy of his victory. With his win, Steel not only became the first non-Chinese Taipei player to win an ADT event in Chinese Taipei but also the first Malaysian to win an ADT event outside of Malaysia.

Meanwhile rookie Bringolf is satisfied with his performance despite missing on his maiden ADT win. The Australian took consolation that he can still earn OWGR points even though he finished second this week.

“I played pretty good today even though I got off to a slow start and missed the chance for an eagle on the 18th hole. Overall, it has been a very good experience this week and I’m very happy with how I played,” said the Australian, who is playing in his rookie year on the ADT this year.

“There have been quite a bit of ups and downs this season but I think things are turning for the better now. It’s my rookie year on the ADT and I hope to gain as much as experience as I can. I look forward to playing more on the ADT in future as I get to earn world ranking points which is really important for a player,” added the 23-year-old, who mixed his card with six birdies against three bogeys.

Leading final round scores
277 – Iain Steel (MAS) 73-70-70-64
278 – Daniel Bringolf (AUS) 70-72-67-69
280 – Steve Lewton (ENG) 65-67-76-72, Yeh Wei-tze (TPE) 70-70-67-73
281 – Lindsay Renolds (CAN) 68-71-69-73, Lee Chieh-po (A) (TPE) 70-70-67-74
283 – Lu Wei-chih (TPE) 72-70-69-72
284 – Lu Wen-teh (TPE) 78-68-71-67, Hung Chien-yao (TPE) 71-70-74-69, Chang Tse-Peng (TPE) 72-70-70-72, Chan Yih-shin (TPE) 74-70-68-72, Darren Tan (AUS) 72-72-68-72, Grant Jackson (ENG) 70-70-71-73