Classy finish by championship's first Asian winner
A cool, calm Wu Ashun finished his final round in a blaze of glory at The Dutch to become the first Asian winner of the KLM Open (13-16 September) since the championship began in the Netherlands back in 1912. The 33-year old player from Zhangzhou, Fujian Province in China pipped England’s Chris Wood at the post after closing out with a 67 in Spijk to get to 16-under par and secure third victory on the European Tour. It was a tough day for Wood who finished runner-up for a disappointing third time this season. Let’s take a look at the last few holes of Wu and Wood’s battle for victory.
After nine holes, Wood, the overnight leader, still had the edge on Wu by one shot. Two holes later he was three ahead only to squander most of that lead on the 12th after a double-bogey. Wood was now just one ahead of Wu. Meanwhile, another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, had just finished with a blitz of three birdies to take the clubhouse lead on 12-under.
Young Belgian stuns weekend fans
After a sumptuous wedge-shot, Wu Ashun then birdied the 15th to draw neck and neck with Wood on 15-under par. Interestingly, there was a young Belgian by the name of Thomas Detry who was also having a tremendous tournament. Detry thought he had just missed the cut on 141. In fact, he had just scraped in on the one-under par cut-line. He showed his gratitude on Saturday by rattling out six birdies in his record-equalling round of 63 which he followed with a 66 on Sunday closing out with an impressive birdie at the last to become leader in the clubhouse on 14-under. The KLM Open was really hotting-up.
Sunday at The Dutch saw some great scoring in the perfect weather conditions. Indeed, quite a collection of 65s were carded which nudged players like Soren Kjeldsen, Eddie Pepperell and Jason Scrivener up the leaderboard for a bigger share of the prize fund. Another familiar name, American Chase Koepka, shot a closing 65 too. Yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s the younger brother of 2017 US Open Champion Brooks Koepka. Just like his older brother, he chose to begin his professional career on this side of the Atlantic by playing on the Challenge Tour.
Wood digs deep down final stretch
Wood look destined to make birdie on the par-3, 16th over the water, but his ball had other ideas. Despite the munching of a banana handed to him by his caddie, ‘Wobbly’, Wood’s heart sank as he saw his ball shave the hole and stay above ground. The Englishman had to settle for par and remain co-leader.
Up ahead meanwhile, Wu was in problems at the 17th. After a poor drive, he had put his second in the right-hand greenside bunker. It was no easy shot at this nail-biting stage of the championship and certainly a bit of a knee-trembler. Water threatened on the other side of the slender green just beyond the pin for any golfer who was too aggressive out of the sand. However, no such problems for Wu. He calmly splashed out and holed the putt to save his par.
Wood then had another good chance to regain the outright lead at the 17th but again his birdie putt agonisingly missed the hole.
Wu woos crowds with courageous play
On Sunday, the crowds were given the thrill of watching the players attack the 18th green in two as they played from a forward tee. Wu responded by hitting a tremendous second shot into the heart of the green and so give himself chance of an eagle to get to 17-under. His putt was a fine effort that saw his ball just wriggle to the right of the hole as it lost pace leaving him with a tap-in for birdie and an excellent round of 67 for a tournament tally of 268 (-16).
It was now down to Chris Wood in the final group to make an eagle at the 18th for outright victory. He had already made par, bogey and birdie on the last hole this week. A birdie would mean a play-off with Wu. Wood drove his ball 266 metres which left him with just 206 metres to the pin. He struck a good shot but it pulled-up on the front left edge of the green. The lean and lanky Englishman had left himself with a tall order. He needed to hole this enormous putt, which many a player had three-putted on Sunday, for the win or, at the very worst, make a two-putt. With the attitude: “There are no prizes for being short …”, Wood went for the eagle and for victory. Alas, his attacking putt saw the ball roll nearly four meters beyond the hole, just off the green. He then missed his birdie putt too. Wood carded a 69 to finish at 15-under par, one stroke behind Wu. A painful and disappointing second place for the third time this season for the 30-year old from Bristol.
And so, the first Asian, Wu Ashun from China, wins the 99th edition of the KLM Open. It’s his third victory on the European Tour this season and earns him a cheque for 300,000 euros. Wood received 200,000 euros from the 1,800,000 euro prize fund.
During an interview with the European Tour, a delighted Wu Ashun admitted: “The second shot on the 18th was an unbelievable shot for me.” Yes, Wu, we were also very impressed! Indeed, Wu charmed the fans in Holland all week not only with his great golf and gracious smile but also with his Dutch orange polo-shirt on Sunday!
Many congratulations to you Wu Ashun, KLM Open Champion 2018!
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: A happy Wu Ashun with the Dutch Open trophy.