Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong prevailed in the Mandiri Indonesia Open yesterday after a gripping finish at Pondok Indah Golf Course – confirming he has recaptured the kind of form that established him as one of the region’s most exciting young golfers last year.

Having started the day with a comfortable five-shot margin, he was pushed all the way to the finish line, closing with an even-par 72 for an 18-under-par total, and a two-stroke triumph over Australia’s Scott Hend, Steve Lewton from England and Chinese-Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po, who all carded 68s.

Hend, chasing his 11th win on the Asian Tour and first in four years, came closest to catching the winner but, playing in the group ahead, hit his tee shot on the par-5 18th out-of-bounds and made a costly double-bogey.

Nitithorn had appeared to be in complete control at the turn after two birdies and no dropped shots on the outward half to open a substantial lead at 20-under, but dropped shots on the 12th and 13th to give hope to his three nearest challengers.

However, he was able to par home to secure his third Asian Tour title and put behind him a poor first half of the season, when he was shadow of the player who recorded two breakthrough victories last year, in the DGC Open and the International Series Singapore.

Photo: Graham Uden/Asian Tour

Said the 26-year-old, whose nickname is ‘Fever’: “Wow, amazing! Like, I feel so happy about this win, you know. Back the past few weeks I didn’t feel confidence like this, but after I played some rounds before, I came here and I just figured out my swing, got some good feelings and transferred to this tournament. Like I said the past few weeks, I was like how to hit, even how to impact the ball very well, I really struggled on my swing. But right now, I feel better, amazing!”

Nitithorn had not finished in the top-10 in nine starts this year until this week and had failed to progress to the weekend four times.

“I didn’t think I was going to win this year to be honest, but I just planned to be just keep doing my best,” he said.

“I was really excited when I finished hole No.9, and on hole No.10 – this is funny – my caddie lost my towel and I just freaked out a little bit.”

He earned a cheque for $US90,000 and moved into 11th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Lewton, looking for his first win since the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2014, made a birdie on 18 to close the gap but was left to rue missed opportunities. He also tied for second here last year.

Said the Englishman: “I thought I’d have to shoot really low 60s, to be honest. And then when I got to 14, the par 5, I looked at the board and I had a putt to get to 17-under, and I was like, Oh I’m not actually as far behind as I thought it would be. I just missed and then after that I just didn’t capitalise on a couple of the good shots I hit.”

Lee dropped shot at the 16th and 18th to miss out on his first victory on the Asian Tour, but took positives from his performance.

“I am not disappointed actually,” he said. “I gave myself a chance. I am happy with the result. I didn’t think I had a chance when we went out today. I have been hitting my irons well, especially yesterday and today. I gave myself a lot of opportunities at the start, but I think I wasn’t that lucky and left a few out there.”

Korean Yongjun Bae tied for fifth after breaking the course record with a brilliant 63, with 10 birdies and one dropped shot; four of those birdies came in the last four holes. He finished the event on 14-under with compatriot Mingyu Cho (66), Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert (65) and Chang Wei-lun (71) from Chinese-Taipei.

The next stop on the Asian Tour is the International Series England at Close House, in Newcastle, England, from August 17-20.