May 27, 2019

Techakanokboon rallies then holds on for rainy playoff win

NANTONG, China—With rain pouring down, Kevin Techakanokboon made an eight-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole of a playoff to defeat Stephen Lewton and win the Nantong Championship. Techakanokboon began the day a stroke behind 54-hole leader Max McGreevy and turned in a stellar final day, shooting a Sunday 67 at Nantong Yangtze River Golf Club. But a disappointing bogey on his last hole of regulation made Techakanokboon work a little harder for his second Tour title that goes with his 2018 Zhuhai Championship triumph.  

To get to the playoff, a lot of action took place on the 72nd hole of the tournament. On the tee, Techakanokboon held a one-shot lead over McGreevy and a two-shot advantage on Lewton. But Lewton gave himself a chance by sinking a 38-foot birdie putt to move to 17-under. Techakanokboon faced an eight-foot par putt that would have given him the win, but he missed, a bogey that dropped him to 17-under. McGreevy couldn’t join the playoff when he bogeyed the 18th. He finished third, at 16-under.

In the playoff, both contested on the course’s 18th hole, Techakanokboon and Lewton parred the first extra hole, with Techakanokboon prevailing on his third playing of the 18th hole in the previous 45 minutes when Lewton couldn’t make his 30-foot birdie effort.

“I’m pretty pleased. You can’t be too mad about it,” a smiling Techakanokboon said. “I just wanted to come out and play well. I didn’t have expectations or anything. There are a lot of positives to this one.”  

For all of Sunday, it was essentially a three-player race between Techakanokboon, McGreevy and Lewton. Through 10 holes, McGreevy held a one-shot lead over Techakanokboon—three clear of Lewton. His lead could have been more, but McGreevy missed a four-foot birdie putt at No. 10.

Techakanokboon finally drew even with McGreevy when he birdied 13, the duo sharing a one-stroke lead over Lewton. All three stayed that way until No. 16 when Techakanokboon pulled ahead with an easy tap-in birdie at the par-3, almost making a hole-in-one. Lewton, too, birdied the hole to move to 17-under and a tie with McGreevy. Lewton dropped a shot at the 17th before his final-hole heroics. The short miss at No. 10 typified McGreevy’s back-nine putting. He missed several birdie chances coming in but none more painful than the three-and-a-half footer he couldn’t sink on 18 that would have given him a spot in the playoff. 

Techakanokboon improved to No. 3 on the Order of Merit through six events, positioning himself nicely for the second half of the season. It’s also been a steady climb in the Official World Golf Ranking for Techakanokboon, a California native who splits his time between the Golden State and his parents’ birthplace of Thailand. He fell as low as No. 2,056 in the world before winning in Zhuhai seven months ago, a victory that improved his standing to No. 895. He entered this week at his high-water mark of No. 761.