Muir triumphs in Suzhou with late birdie blitz

Kieran Muir claims his second career China Tour title as the New Zealander birdies three of the final four holes to win the Mitsubishi Electric FA Golf Open by one shot in Suzhou.
Muir triumphs in Suzhou with late birdie blitz

Kieran Muir of New Zealand poses with the trophy after winning the Mitsubishi Electric FA Golf Open by one stroke at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club in Suzhou, neighboring Jiangsu Province, on Sunday.

Kieran Muir captured his second career China Tour title on Sunday as the New Zealander birdied three of the final four holes to win the Mitsubishi Electric FA Golf Open by one stroke in Suzhou, neighboring Jiangsu Province.

The Kiwi took advantage of a late collapse by China's Ye Jianfeng (72) who led for much of the final round at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club to card a 1-under-par 71. His winning score of 11-under 277 was worth 90,000 yuan (US$12,300).

Li Linqiang, the China Tour Order of Merit leader, roared up the leaderboard with a final-round 67 to finish third at two shots back. Zhou Yanhan was the top amateur as the 15-year-old Chongqing native closed with a 68 to finish three shots off the pace in equal fourth with Czech Gordan Brixi, who shot a 65 for the low round of the tournament.

Muir and Ye went into the final round as co-leaders on 10-under. As Muir could only muster 10 straight pars to start, Ye vaulted into a two-shot lead with birdies at the second and fourth holes. Muir picked up his first birdie at the 427-yard 11th hole to get within a stroke of Ye.

After both players made a bogey five at the 448-yard 12th, Muir looked out of it when he made further bogeys over the next two holes to fall three strokes behind. Starting at the 15th hole, however, Muir began a run of three straight birdies that would prove the difference.

With Ye holding a one-stroke lead going into the penultimate hole, his tee shot with a pitching wedge at the 149-yard par-3 found water. As Ye would stumble to a double-bogey five, Muir made a 70-foot birdie putt for a two-stroke lead in what would be a three-shot swing.

At the final hole Muir made a par five as Ye sank a five-foot birdie putt to get close.

"Any win is special. It's very hard to win a golf tournament anywhere in the world. To win here again is really nice, makes me feel good. I'm a second-time winner, so that's good," said Muir, who turns 36 on Wednesday.

"Ye played very, very well. He had a really nice start and I got close and then I made three bogeys. Then I think 'tough work now'. But I re-center, go back to my processes. I find a good place and make three birdies. Unfortunately, Benny (Ye) missed his swing on 17. But he's a great competitor and he deserves all he got this week. He's a good player."

For Ye, his runner-up result marked his best finish at a China Tour event, but also a missed opportunity to collect his first win as a pro. The 32-year-old said he injured himself at the Volvo China Open Qualifying Tournament in August. The following month, he finished seventh at the Guotai Open before missing the cut last week in Hainan.

"I felt relaxed at the 17th tee. I hit a good tee shot but I don't know what happened. As I said before, this is the will of heaven. I did my best and I just have to accept it," said the Guangzhou-based Ye. "I didn't play golf for a month because of my injury, but I have made a lot of progress since Hainan. I will try again next week (in Zhejiang)."

Despite finishing equal fourth against a pro field, top amateur Zhou was anything but happy with his final round after coming out red hot with six birdies over the first seven holes. The teenager is in Melbourne, Australia, next week to compete in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

"I am not satisfied with this score since I had a really fantastic start," said Zhou, 95th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. "I made a 25-footer for a birdie at the first hole. My tee shots were great. My putter worked, too. After that, my putts didn't drop to my disappointment."

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