The inaugural edition of The DGC Open presented by Mastercard swung furiously from one end to another before finally ending in favour of the baby-faced 25-year-old Thai Nitithorn Thippong. It was Nitithorn’s maiden Asian Tour win, while Ajeetesh Sandhu, who was looking for his second success, finished runner-up for the fifth time on Asian Tour.
At the end of 72 holes, Nitithorn (73) and Sandhu (71) were Tied at 7-under, while Settee Prakongvech (71) was sole third.
Coming back to the dramatic finish, there was a two-shot swing twice in the last four holes. First in the favour of the 33-year-old Sandhu, when Nitithorn dropped a bogey on the 14th while Sandhu picked a birdie. That gave Sandhu a one-shot lead and for the first time, he was alone on top of the leaderboard. When Nitithorn dropped another bogey on the 16th, Sandhu was two clear with two holes to play.
Sandhu seemed in control but there was another twist in the tale. Sandhu hit his first shot on 17th into the jungle and dropped a double bogey leaving both players level once again.
On the 18th, Nitithorn holed a 12-footer for birdie which meant Sandhu needed to hole a clutch 10-footer for birdie to force a play-off. He managed that and the players went back to the 18th tee for the play-off.
In the play-off on the 18th, Sandhu once again missed the fairway and Nitithorn produced the shot of the tournament. He wanted to lay up but his caddie Thirdpong, his friend’s father, advised him to ‘go for it’ with a 3-wood. Nitithorn took the advice and produced a masterpiece, landing his second shot inside 15 feet. As Sandhu managed only a par, the Thai had two putts to win. He managed that comfortably with no problems.
The win earned the genial Thai $90,000 and a two-year exemption ending in December 2024.
At the 17th tee box, Sandhu was sitting on a two-shot swing after Nittithorn bogeyed 16, but the Indian sliced his shot into the bushes to concede a double-bogey which brought both back on level terms.
For Sandhu, it was a rare defeat in a shootout as he has three wins out of four in the past on the domestic PGTI schedule. It was also a chance to end a five-year Asian Tour title drought after the Yeangder Championship in Chinese Taipei back in 2017.
“I can’t describe my feeling right now,” Nitithorn said later. “It is amazing to win on the Asian Tour. I have been waiting for this for a long time, can’t describe my feelings. It’s incredible, amazing.”