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Poulter Powers to Victory
Sentosa, November 1: England's Ian Poulter held off a brave challenge from Liang Wen-chong of China to claim a thrilling one-stroke victory at the Barclays Singapore Open on Sunday for his first triumph in two years.
The Ryder Cup star battled to a one-over-par 72 at the Sentosa Golf Club to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the star-studded US$5 million event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the first time.
It was Poulter's eighth career European Tour win, which was worth US$833,330, and his first since winning the 2007 Dunlop Phoenix Open in Japan. However, the flamboyant Englishman needed to overcome a mid-round wobble with four bogeys over six holes to end his title drought.
Liang, Asia's number one in 2007, battled gamely with a 70 to finish second, but lamented missed opportunities down the stretch especially on the par five 18th hole which he needed to birdie to force a play-off.
Two-time Barclays Singapore Open champion Adam Scott of Australia stormed through the field with a 68 to finish joint third with compatriot Scott Hend, who signed off with a 69.
Poulter and Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell traded the lead all day long, with Liang lurking behind. But as McDowell faded and Liang failed to find the birdies, Poulter eventually prevailed thanks to a 30-foot birdie conversion at the 13th hole which proved pivotal.
"The birdie on 13 pumped me up. I was getting angry (after bogeys on 11 and 12). I played so well in spells around here and it was just so annoying to let easy holes slip," said 33-year-old Poulter, who played 12 holes of the third round in the morning to hold on to his lead.
"Making bogey, bogey there and lose the lead with Graeme in front, I felt I needed to do something and I did – I rolled a putt in from 30 feet. And it gave me a nice boost to a tiring day.
"I was mishitting some shots which made it a little bit interesting on a string of holes yesterday and coming out today I made some mistakes as well on the front and back nines. That made it a little bit too close for comfort. But to stand on the last hole knowing I had to make five to win made me fairly happy," added Poulter, who ended the week on 10-under-par 274.
Liang was searching for his second victory in Singapore but came up just short in the end. He needed to birdie the par five 18th but his approach with only a wedge in hand left him with a 25-foot birdie putt which he didn't even come close to holing.
"I tried my best but lady luck was eluding me. It was quite a pity on the 18th hole that I couldn't find a birdie, I just hit a bad third shot. I had a pitching wedge in hand, had 126 yards to the pin," said the Chinese ace, whose consolation was a career biggest cheque of US$555,550 which took him up to second place on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit.
"There are no regrets. Golf is like that. If I can't make birdie, I have to accept it. Overall, I'm satisfied and pleased with how I played all week and being in contention."
Scott, a crowd favourite after winning here in 2005 and 2006, showed he was back to his best form by coming alive on Sunday. As he had made the weekend rounds right on the cut line, the dashing Aussie played on the opposite nine from the leaders but he charged up the leaderboard with six birdies against three bogeys for joint third place.
"I thought if I could do something special, I could win on the wrong side of the course. But it wasn't to be, that probably won't ever happen," said Scott.
He was delighted to finish strongly after a difficult season which has seen him drop to 76th place on the world rankings. "I'm in better shape now that it was at the start of the week. I put it all together in the last two rounds," he said.
"It's good to see something come out from the hard work as I've been grinding it pretty hard. I hung in there all weekend."
Current Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand finished tied 14th with a closing 69 but saw his Order of Merit lead trimmed by Liang, which will now ensure a climatic finish to the season over the coming weeks.
American world number two Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els of South Africa also finished tied 14th on 280.