Kim edges Phachara to take first Asia Tour win in Hua Hin

Kim edges Phachara to take first Asia Tour win in Hua Hin

This handout from the Asian Tour taken and released on Sunday shows Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai playing a shot during the final round of the International Series Thailand golf tournament in Hua Hin. (AFP photo)

American Sihwan Kim finally claimed his maiden Asian Tour title with a nine-under-par 63 in the fourth round of the inaugural International Series Thailand on Sunday.

Kim, who broke the course record Thursday to seize the first-round lead with a 10-under-par 62, will take home $270,000 and also move to the top of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.

The final round was a battle between Kim and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai at Hua Hin’s Black Mountain course, with the 33-year-old clinching the win by two strokes after a decade on the tour.

“To get that monkey off your back is more of a relief, and happiness, I guess. I know I had it in me,” said Kim, who finished second at last week’s Royal’s Cup tournament, also in Thailand.

“When you get off to a hot start and when the leaders see your name going up the leader board, it kind of puts pressure on the leaders,” he said, adding “it definitely helped to be in the second from last group.”

Kim raced out of the gate on Sunday to card 29 on the front-nine, racking up an impressive seven straight birdies from hole two.

“It just felt like I was going to make everything today. I was swinging it really freely,” he said.

But he was dogged by Saturday’s leader Phachara, who managed four birdies to end on 68, and ensured the final round wasn’t an easy ride.

In a particularly tense moment, the American managed to nail a birdie from the bunker on 15 to regain his lead over Phachara — only to see his breathing space narrowed after dropping a shot on 16.

Despite his loss, Phachara — the favourite going into the event — paid tribute to Kim.

“Today, I was aiming to shoot four or five under to win, but Sihwan played very well, he was eight under after only 10 holes, which really affected my game,” he said.

“I am still proud of my performance, and I’m satisfied. I kept fighting until the very end,” he added.

Thailand’s Itthipat Buanatanyarat ended a solid performance over the past four days with a 67, while South Koreans Bi-o Kim (68) and Joohyung Kim (69), and Japan’s Ryosuke Kinoshita (68) all made the Order of Merit.