Steve Lewton pulled through in a nerve-wracking sudden death, edging Johannes Veerman with a gutsy par off the bunker on the exacting finishing hole of The Country Club and snaring the 99th Solaire Philippine Open crown that nearly slipped off his grasp with a shaky finish in regulation on Sunday in Laguna.
Nearly blowing it all with a bogey-par-bogey windup for his first over-par card, a 75, in regulation, Lewton rebounded when it mattered most, coming through with a blast to 12 feet and drilling the downhiller, clinching the win as Veerman, who reached the green in regulation, crumbled under pressure, flubbing his par-putt bid from seven feet.
“I’m very, very happy for my victory. This is my first here and I will never foget it. This is memorable,” said Lewton, who also became the first Englishman to win the fabled championship, also Asia’s oldest National Open.
“I didn’t expect to win because I am not familiar with the course. I just played my game and luckily made it,” added Lewton, who turned in an impressive 70 and two 71s to lead in the middle rounds of the $400,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino. He missed a 15-footer for par on the difficult par-4 18th in regulation.
Veerman, who rallied from two down to force a playoff at one-under 287, also missed winning it outright with a bogey on the last hole for a 73 then cracked after watching Lewton’s par-saving putt in the playoff drop in, enabling the Northampton ace to pocket the top $72,000 purse in the event held in cooperation with Meralco and PLDT.
Veerman settled for $40,000.
It was indeed a thrilling ending to what had been an unpredictable week at the tough TCC despite Lewton’s seizing control of the elite field in the second and third rounds with a run of under-par scores.
Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan, three down at the start of the final round, fell farther back with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 7 but birdied No. 8 for the fourth straight day and rattled off three more in the first six holes at the back, including back-to-back from No. 14.
With Lewton scrambling for a one-over card after 15 holes, the 21-year-old Thai, in a flight ahead, forced a tie at three-under overall with Veerman stalking the leaders with a run of pars for a two-under card.
But Wannasrichan stumbled with a double-bogey on the par-3 17th and wound up with a bogey for a 73, missing joining the playoff by one with a 288 and took $25,000.