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Thailand's Kiradech wins storm-hit Malaysia Open

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) –

Luke Donald of England plays at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 17, 2013 in Palm Harbor, Florida

Luke Donald of England plays a shot on the 9th hole during the final round of the Tampa Bay Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 17, 2013 in Palm Harbor, Florida. Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat held off a string of star names including Donald to snatch his first European Tour title by one stroke at the rain-hit Maybank Malaysia Open on Sunday after posting a two-under 70.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat held off a string of star names to snatch his first European Tour title by one stroke at the rain-hit Maybank Malaysia Open on Sunday after posting a two-under 70.

Kiradech blew away a field that had world number three Luke Donald and former Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel in the $2.75 million event.

One ahead of former Masters Tournament winner Schwartzel at the start of the final day, the 23-year-old Thai golfer was joined by, amongst others, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and Ryder cup star Edoardo Molinari.

Kiradech, however, held firm and even a bogey at the last could not prevent the big hitter carding a two under par 70 for a 13 under total; one ahead of Italy’s Molinari.

The tournament was reduced to 54 holes following heavy downpour on each of the first three days while play was suspended for two and half hours on the final day due to rain.

Kiradech, who was fourth in the Avantha Masters last week, said: “I just wanted to play as best as I could and not think about the others. This is a tremendous day for me.”

The Thai’s previous Asian Tour win was in the Sail Open in India in 2011.

Kiradech, who led in all three days of the tournament, started the final day 11 under par with 16 holes to complete.

The Thai, who picked up $458,330 for his win, birdied the long third after a chip to within three feet, then followed it with a lovely curling 15 foot eagle putt two holes later.

But Kiradech three-putted the seventh for a bogey after running his birdie putt 12 foot past the hole.

That tallied up to a front nine 34, and at 13 under, Kiradech found himself one clear as Harrington of Ireland came surging into contention. But as he entered the 16 the Thai birdied it and was clear in the lead as the others faded away.

Meanwhile Molinari, who finished second, said he failed to put pressure on Kiradech.

“I felt that if I had birdied the last hole I might have won outright because it would put a lot of pressure (on Kiradech),” he said.

Donald on Saturday made a shock exit after he missed the halfway cut for the first time in his career at the rain-hit Malaysia Open.

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