American Sihwan Kim finally secured his first victory as a professional after over a decade long wait when he claimed the International Series Thailand at Black Mountain Golf Club today.
The in-form 33 year old, who has been in the final pairing on Sunday at three of the last six Asian Tour events, fired an inspired nine-under-par 63 to beat Thailand’s great hope of the future Phachara Khongwatmai by two strokes.
Phachara, the overnight leader chasing his second Tour victory, had no answer to Kim’s round and shot a 68.
South African Ian Snyman and Itthipat Buranatanyarat from Thailand finished two shots further back tied for third after rounds of 64 and 67 respectively.
Kim, who turned professional in 2011, has recorded eight top-four results on the Asian Tour since 2018, including two runner-up finishes.
Today’s victory is the culmination of a fine run of form recently which has seen him finish joint fourth at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship, fourth in the SMBC Singapore Open, and tied second in the Royal’s Cup last week.
And he has also finished second four times on the Challenge Tour, since 2012.
“To get that monkey off your back is more of a relief, and happiness, I guess. I know I had it in me, but I guess I just stayed diligent throughout my career, and here I am,” said Kim, who earned a cheque for US$270,000 and moved to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
“It definitely helped [being in the penultimate group]. When you get off to hot start and when the leaders see your name going up the leader board it kind of puts pressure on the leaders. Obviously because you should make birdies and when it doesn’t come it kind of gets frustrating, so it definitely helped to be in the second from last group.
“It just felt like I was going to make everything today. I was swinging it really freely. I was just reading the lines really well, felt like I was going to make everything.”
Kim started the day three shots adrift of Phachara but took charge of the tournament with the most remarkable run of holes seen on the Asian Tour.
He made seven birdies in row from the second – which was two short of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger’s record at the 2017 Maybank Championship.
By the halfway mark he had a one-shot lead over Phachara before another birdie on 10 saw him move two ahead. A three-putt bogey on 14 gave Phachara a glimmer of hope before the American restored his two-shot advantage by sensationally holing his third shot from the bunker on 15 for a birdie.
That left him with a three-stroke lead but again Kim gave Phachara a chance by missing a 10 foot par putt on 16 after finding sand with his second. Phachara proceeded to birdie 16 to close the gap to one before Kim made birdie on 17 to restore a two-shot advantage that would remain until the end.
Phachara won his first title on the Asian Tour at the Laguna Phuket Championship in December and was the hot favourite to prevail today.
He said: “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. I am still proud of my performance, and I’m satisfied. I kept fighting until the very end.”
Asian Tour rookie Snyman was one of the surprise performers on the last day coming through to register the best finish of his career.
“Today was a big mental breakthrough. Being able to put together four rounds like that is incredible,” said Snyman.
“I loved it, love every moment. I had to remind myself the whole time to keep pushing. Don’t go into defence mode. Overall, I am very, very pleased. It’s a relief making that final putt on the last.”
The Asian Tour heads to The DGC Open next. The inaugural event is being played at Delhi Golf Club from March 24 to 27.