KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - American Nick Watney fired a course-record 10-under-par 61 to overhaul compatriot Bo Van Pelt and win the $6.1 million CIMB Classic on Sunday after a brave run by Tiger Woods again fell short on the back nine.
Watney started the day four back of overnight leaders Bo Van Pelt (66) and Robert Garrigus (66) but, after flirting with golf’s magical number 59, ended one ahead on 22-under 262 to win the Asian and PGA Tour co-sanctioned event in Malaysia.
Woods hauled himself into contention with an eight-under 63 but had to settle for a three-way tie for fourth place, three behind Watney, and will rue a number of missed opportunities on the closing holes when he was close enough to challenge.
Watney needed to birdie the last to shoot the rare 59, but he could only bogey the hole after a poor second from the rough to the par-four fell 30 yards short of the green and gave Van Pelt hope of a playoff.
Van Pelt, who double-bogeyed the last chasing a 59 of his own in the third round on Saturday, failed to force a playoff, though, when he could only par the 409-yard 18th after hitting his approach into a greenside bunker.
The 31-year-old Watney, who won the PGA Tour’s Barclays Tournament in August, could then celebrate after his brilliant 11-birdie show on the short and soggy Mines Golf Course, which proved an easy test for the 48-man field after a third consecutive day of preferred lies.
“I wasn’t really thinking about winning when I teed off, but the round sort of built momentum and things just kept getting better and better. I‘m thrilled to come away with the win,” Watney told reporters.
“After the first round, I thought I was out of it to be honest, the lead was eight-under and there were so many guys,” the world number 22 added.
Watney had an eventful level par opening round 71 with his caddie suffering heat stroke and forcing his wife to carry his bag for the final hole of the day before back-to-back 65s gave him a slim hope for Sunday.
“I saw leaderboards on the front nine but I was still well back,” Watney said of his fast final round start.
“I didn‘t’ pay much attention until I got to 13, I saw I was tied for the lead walking to the 13th green.”
Watney rolled in a four footer for his eighth birdie of the day on the 386 yard par-four 13th hole to take the lead from Van Pelt, which he never relinquished.
Woods, dressed in his final round lucky red shirt, also produced a Sunday charge as he matched Watney’s five-under-par 30 on the front nine but a run of five pars from the 11th all but ended his title challenge.
“I left a couple out there,” the 14-times major winner told reporters after his first bogey-free round of the week.
“I hit a bunch of good shots. I just had one little bad stretch yesterday, other than that, I really played well this week.”
Watney had no such issues, picking up three shots before another birdie came at the 292 meter 15th when he got up and down from the greenside bunker to stretch his lead to two.
That advantage became three when he drained a 20 foot effort at the par-three 16th and Van Pelt’s barren birdie run extended to eight holes when he parred the 14th.
Van Pelt, who won the European Tour event in Australia last week, ended the birdie drought on the easy 15th before matching Watney’s birdie on 17 when a lovely chip from a hollow in front of the green that trickled close to the cup.
But needing a birdie at the tricky last the assured driver uncharacteristically sliced his tee shot setting up a difficult approach and in the end holed a seven-foot par putt to tie playing partner Garrigus, who holed a similar length effort for a share of second.
“He let us have a little bit of a chance there with him bogeying 18,” Van Pelt said of Watney’s only dropped shot of the day before talking about a case of deja vu with his approach to the last.
“I had the exact same shot as I did yesterday, ball below my feet with a nine-iron. I thought it was going to come out straight and it came out right like yesterday, So I guess I need to practice that shot.”
Editing by John O'Brien