Seoul, May 29: Korean veteran Choi Sang-ho thwarted a brave bid by Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand to lift the US$500,000 Maekyung Open title by three strokes on Sunday.
Overnight leader Choi completed his sensational wire-to-wire triumph with a final round of two-under-par 70 which gave him a four-day winning aggregate of 10-under-par 278 at Nam Seoul Country Club.
Choi's victory, worth US$98,000, made him the oldest winner on the Asian Tour at the age of 50 years and 145 days. Thaworn finished second following a 70 while Korea's Sung Si-woo came in third on 282. Korean amateur Kim Kyung-tae and Kim Hyung-tae shared fourth place, a further two strokes back.
Australian Marcus Both and Thailand's Boonchu Ruangkit closed with matching 71s to be amongst those sharing sixth place on 285.
Trailing by three strokes heading into the final round, Thaworn reduced the lead to one on the seventh hole but the experienced Choi hung on doggedly to clinch a famous home victory in front of massive crowds.
Thaworn's consolation was a runner-up cheque of US$61,274, which saw him replace compatriot Thongchai Jaidee at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit with US$326,229.
Choi was ecstatic to savour success on his home course. "I was very nervous as Thaworn and Sung were catching up on me. After finding the fairway on the 18th hole, only then was I confident of winning the title.
"This is my home course where I've been the club pro for 15 years. After taking the first round lead, I was very anxious and couldn't eat or sleep well this week. It is really nice to win," said Choi.
Thaworn started his day with a bogey on the first but began his title charge with birdies on the third, fourth and seventh holes to narrow the gap to one stroke. However, a crucial bogey on the par three 11th by Thaworn proved decisive. Choi regained a two-shot edge and the local favourite then ran off birdies on the 13th and 17th holes to clinch victory.
"I gave it a chance and was happy to birdie the 18th hole which gave me outright second. I played with two top Koreans today and it was difficult as the crowds were really behind them. But I played nicely and I'm happy to become the new Order of Merit leader," said the Thai.
It was a glorious final round which saw Singapore-based Australian Scott Barr adding to the excitement. He shot an albatross on the par five fourth hole en route to a 70, the first on the Asian Tour in nearly two years.
Hong Chia-yuh of Chinese Taipei was the last player to shoot one of the rarest birds in golf at the Maekyung Open two years ago.
Leading final round scores
278 - Choi Sang-ho (KOR) 66-70-72-70
281 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-71-69-70
282 - Sung Si-woo (KOR) 72-70-70-70
284 - Kim Kyung-tae [A] (KOR) 71-69-74-70, Kim Hyung-tae (KOR) 70-74-69-71
285 - Park No-seok (KOR) 72-74-71-68, Bae Sang-moon (KOR) 72-74-70-69, Marcus Both (AUS) 71-70-73-71, Boonchu Ruangkit (THA) 72-71-71-71
286 - Alistair Presnell (AUS) 73-76-70-67, Moon Ji-wook (KOR) 72-74-72-68, Kang Ji-man (KOR) 70-74-70-72 287 - Prom Meesawat (THA) 75-71-73-68, Chung Joon (KOR) 70-76-74-67 288 - Nam Young-woo (KOR) 72-76-71-69, Hur In-hoi [A] (KOR) 74-69-71-74, Edward Loar (USA) 73-70-69-76, Amandeep Johl (IND) 72-71-70-75 289 - Choi Ho-sung (KOR) 75-71-72-71, Choi Gwang-soo (KOR) 71-74-73-71, Kang Wook-soon (KOR) 73-74-70-72, Simon Yates (SCO) 75-69-73-72, Alejandro Quiroz (MEX) 70-72-73-74, Larry Austin (AUS) 76-73-72-68, Kong John-joon (KOR) 73-71-71-74, David Oh (USA) 71-71-73-74, Park Do-kyu (KOR) 72-70-73-74 290 - Andrew Pitts (USA) 72-74-72-72, Yoo Jong-koo (KOR) 74-75-71-70, Jun Tae-hyun (KOR) 76-72-73-69