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Satisfied Spaniard: Jiménez clinched his second win in Hong Kong following Robert Karlsson's final-hole meltdown in 2007

Six of the Best The last six editions of the UBS Hong Kong Open have provided more than their fair share of thrills and drama. Alex Jenkins looks back and recounts the highlights

2005: Monty Gifted Title

The first Hong Kong Open in the UBS sponsorship era started as it had finished with Omega the year before – with a another final-hole collapse by James Kingston. A 64 on Saturday had propelled the likeable South African into contention, and when overnight leader Simon Yates – who had a brilliant 61 in the third round – stumbled early, Kingston found himself in sole possession of the lead. Standing on the final tee with a one-stroke advantage over the newly-installed European number one Colin Montgomerie, Kingston was determined not to repeat his mistake from the year before where he hit his ball left with a threewood. He didn't. Taking a two-iron, the journeyman pushed his tee shot deep into the trees on the right. A chip back to the fairway was followed by an under-cooked wedge which spun off the front of the green. With the spectators expecting him to get up and down from a relatively straightforward position (and therefore extend the tournament into extra holes), Kingston semi-duffed his chip to 10 feet and then missed the putt. A huge groan reverberated around Fanling and Monty was the winner. A teary-eyed Kingston told the assembled press: "I just messed up again for the second straight year. It's obviously disappointing with the way I finished but that's golf. I was just so nervous." Thrill Factor: 8/10

2006: Lara Hangs On

A final-round 69 earned Spain's Jose Manuel Lara his first European Tour victory, but he had to fight to the bitter end as unknown Juvic Pagunsan put in a remarkable performance to push him all the way Lara, who netted US$330,000 for the win, enjoyed a three-stroke lead early in the round, but Pagunsan fought back gamely to take the lead with a birdie at the 14th. Smiling and laughing the whole way round, Pagunsan became an instant hit with the Fanling galleries, who thought they were witnessing the most unlikely winner in the tournament's history. Sadly for Pagunsan, who featured prominently at the Barclays Singapore Open in November, it wasn't to be. A bogey by the Filipino at the 16th – a hole Lara birdie – took him out of the lead and the Spaniard was able to cling on by the narrowest of margins with two solid pars to end. "Juvic is a better player than I thought, especially on the greens. He putted so well," said Valencia-born Lara. "I think I was too confident but I got my chance 44

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on the 16th and that gave me the trophy. But it's been a really tough day." Asked why he looked so happy and relaxed during the final round, even after he had lost the lead, Pagunsan replied simply, "I always smile for the crowd; I don't want to be sad." Thrill Factor: 8/10

2007: Miguel Makes it Two

The 18th hole strikes again as Miguel Angel Jiménez claimed his second Hong Kong Open title after both he and playing partner Robert Karlsson both made a hash of Fanling's famous closer in front of record galleries. With the pair tied the lead, Jiménez found the left side of the putting surface with his approach, while Karlsson – who had lead the tournament by four with only seven holes to play – came up short with his second. Then disaster. The tall Swede, one of the most consistent performers on the European Tour that year, fluffed his chip into the bank in front of the green before pitching up close to the hole. Jiménez, who had putted down to within six feet of the hole, then yanked his putt for victory wide of the cup. With a five-foot putt to force a play-off, Karlsson then managed to stab his own effort wide of the target and a stunned Jiménez became the first multiple winner since Frank Phillips in 1978. "It's very nice to win the tournament again, but I feel for Robert and the way he finished," said Jiménez, who had a trademark cigar wedged firmly into the side of his mouth. "He played so good all week and then ... it's not the best way to finish." It wasn't the prettiest end to a tournament but the 2007 edition was certainly not short of drama. Thrill Factor: 8.5/10 HKGOLFER.COM

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2008: The Greatest Ever

Anniversary spectacle: The 50th edition of the championship will live long in the memory, thanks to Lin Wen-tang's amazing recovery (top left) on the first play-off hole and Jason Hak's record breaking achievement in becoming the youngest player in history to make the halfway cut at a European Tour event (top right) 46

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The 50th anniversary tournament surely ranks as one of the greatest European Tour events of all time, but the fun started long before eventual champion Lin Wen-tang, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari reached the closing stages. First there was Jason Hak, the 14-year-old amateur from Hong Kong who became the youngest player in European Tour history to make the cut. He celebrated making the weekend action by upstaging Jose Maria Olazábal – his playing partner in the final round – by outscoring the legendary Spaniard, 68 to 69. Then there was John Daly, who kept the driver in the bag and blitzed his way to a stellar 62 on Sunday. But what made this championship was the play-off, which saw Lin become the first Asian player to win the title since Kang Wook-soon in 1998. After pulling his drive into trouble on the first extra hole, Lin, with his opponents safely in the fairway, looked dead and buried. With nothing to lose, the Taiwanese, a regular on the Asian Tour, pulled out a short iron and fired his approach through the foliage, over the greenside bunker to within four feet of the cup. It was nothing short of miraculous, but the drama didn't end there. McIlroy, who at the time was still without a professional tournament victory to his credit, pitched brilliantly to within tap-in distance, and after Molinari narrowly missed his

own 10-footer for birdie and Lin holed out, the play-off was down to two. Standing on the 18th tee for the third time of the afternoon, it was McIlroy's turn to find trouble. Using his hybrid, his drive bounced off the Out of Bounds fence that lines the left side of the hole and finished in a horrible position at the bottom of a tree, not far from where Lin had made his great escape. Buoyed by his good fortune, Lin struck what looked to be a winning drive down the middle of the fairway. But then it was McIlroy’s turn to produce some magic. With 118 yards to go, but with no sight of the pin, the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland snap-hooked a gap-wedge loaded with spin that somehow caught the back of the green and stopped within 12 feet of the flag. Highfiving his caddie, the Irishman was justifiably delighted – but only for a moment, because Lin then pulled off another gem, firing his own wedge to within inches for a cast-iron birdie. Whipping his cap off to the roar of the crowds, it was this shot, rather than his previous miracle approach that showed his sheer determination to win. Up at the green, McIlroy faced a ghastly birdie putt: lighting quick, downhill and with significant left-to-right break. Perhaps not surprisingly, his effort sailed past, and after knocking it in for par the stage was set for Lin, 50 years after Mr Lu had won the inaugural championship, to tap his in for the greatest of victories. Thrill Factor: 10/10 HKGOLFER.COM


runners-up Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari showed their love of Fanling with another brilliant weekend charge. Opening with rounds of 66 and 68, McIlroy went 65-64 over the final two days, but still ended two shots shy of Gregory Bourdy, whose composure down the closing stretch was simply magnificent. Although much was made of a missed three-footer by McIlroy on the 17th green in the final round, Bordeaux-born Bourdy was unflappable throughout, and with a fourround total of 261 (19-under-par) was a worthy champion. McIlroy, who finished second, one shot ahead of Molinari in third, said, "My goal this week was to win the UBS Hong Kong Open and I've just come up short again, for the second year in a row. But I gave it my best shot and that is all I can do." Bourdy by contrast was delighted and after being showered with champagne on the final green by his compatriots Raphael Jacquelin and Jean-Francois Lucquin said, "It's great. I had a fantastic week. It's my best golf week, best golf today. I played very consistent, missed a few putts at the start of the round but I stayed confident. Simply amazing." Thrill Factor: 8/10

2010: Sensational Scoring

2009: Greg Grinds it Out Winning formula: Gregory Bourdy (top) held off Rory McIlroy for the biggest win of his life in 2009, while Ian Poulter made only two bogeys all week in his victory last year 48

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The 2009 tournament boasted one of the strongest f ields ever assembled in Hong Kong Open history, but it was a little-known French ma n who wa l ked away wit h t he silverware. While tournament drawcards Lee Westwood, YE Yang, Asia’s first major champion, Mark O’Meara and Rory Sabbatini failed to mount a serious challenge during the event, 2008

Last year's championship was another classic, with Ian Poulter sealing his 10th European Tour title with a tournament record total of 258 (22-under-par). But the Englishman was made to work every inch of the way. Poulter had a decidedly hot putter to thank after taking the second round lead with a jawdropping 10-under-par 60. Consistently hitting the ball to the centre of the small Fanling greens, the 34-year-old was rolling in 10-15-footers with amazing regularity. But come the final round and Poulter, who had followed up with a 64 in the third round, was having to fend off the challenges mounted firstly by former winner Simon Dyson and then Italian teenage phenomenon Matteo Manassero, who fought his way right back into the tournament with a magnificent 62. Rory McIlroy, who had fired the low round on day one with a 63, was in the hunt yet again, but faded over the closing holes. Poulter, who was playing with Graeme McDowell in the f inal group, made the tournament his own with an assured stretch of holes on the back nine, and could afford to bogey the last hole to claim the win by the slimmest of margins. For the record, Poulter made only two bogeys during the entire event, which highlights how unusually friendly the scoring conditions were at Fanling that week. Thrill Factor: 8.5/10 HKGOLFER.COM


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