One for the Ages

Dr Brian Choa reports on last month’s Hong Kong Golf Club Championship, which produced one of the best come-from-behind performances in the event’s storied history

But the drama was only just beginning; 6-up with 12 to play, Arnold gave Max a small opening when a short putt horseshoed out of the hole on the seventh: 5-up. Into a strong wind, Max then played a brilliant 4-iron to within a few feet of the pin at the par-3 eighth and birdied. At the long par-4 ninth, which was played into the teeth of the breeze, both players had to scramble, but it was Max who his third consecutive hole after he saved his four thanks to a deft pitch. He was now only 3-down heading into the back nine.

Max hit the green at the par-5 10th with his second after braving the greenside pond and duly birdied, but to his credit, Arnold matched him with his own four to salvage a gritty halve. At the next hole, and for the first time in an hour, Arnold held the upper hand but failed to convert an eight-foot putt for a birdie and what would have been four-hole advantage.

At the 12th, a stout par-4 that was playing in excess of 470 yards, Max once again put his approach to within a few feet of the pin for another win, but Arnold replied superbly by holing a mid-length putt for birdie to regain his 3-up lead.

Surprisingly, neither player birdied the relatively straightforward par-5 14th -the pair having the hole with fives - meaning Arnold held a three-hole advantage with four tough closing holes remaining. Surely that was enough.

Not so. Max played a sublime pitch to four feet for birdie after a stupendous drive at the 15th to reduce the deficit to two holes, and then followed that up with arguably an even better birdie at the 16th after a fine iron. Incredibly, Max was now only 1-down and his putting woes of the morning round forgotten.

At the par-3 penultimate hole, Arnold made a costly slip by bunkering his tee shot. When he failed to save par the match was all square for the first time since the second hole of the morning. At the final green, Arnold then bravely holed from five feet to stay alive, so down the 37th they had to go. The momentum was all one-way now, and no one was surprised when Max holed from all of 35 feet for a birdie three and his fourth victory in this ancient event. He played the last 13 holes of the match in six-under-par, which must surely rank among the finest of performances in Club Championship history.

Arnold could not in any way blame himself for failing to hold onto his large lead, for he had done nothing injudicious nor been guilty of any golfing indiscretion. It is not often that a player can lose a six-hole lead and feel justly proud of his own performance and the part he played in the drama, but this was such an occasion.

In the "Junior" Championship - for players with a handicap of 10 and above -long-hitting Brendan Ma triumphed narrowly over the steady Ken Anderson on the final green.


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