Els second in Singapore after winning twice to start '03

Originally Published: January 26, 2003
Associated Press

SINGAPORE -- Ernie Els lost the lead with a bogey on the last hole, and China's Zhang Lian-Wei made a 3-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to win the Singapore Masters on Sunday.

Ernie Els
Ernie Els' fourth successive win since December was in his grasp until an ill-fated drive on No. 18 Sunday.

Els, coming off consecutive PGA Tour victories in Hawaii and a win at last year's season-ending Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, had three bogeys on the back nine in a round of 1-over 73 and finished at 9-under 279 at Laguna National Golf and Country Club.

Zhang, a self-taught golfer, shot a 2-under 70 for a 10-under 278 total and the biggest win of his career.

Els held a one-stroke lead heading to the 386-yard, par-4 18th. He pushed his tee shot into the rough, and his approach landed short of the green. He chipped to within 5 feet, but missed the par putt.

Zhang's 9-iron from 136 yards narrowly missed the hole for an eagle before stopping 3 feet from the cup. He made the putt to seal the victory.

"I just didn't have good touch today. But I have to take my hat off to Zhang, he stuck in well and didn't make any mistakes really," Els said.

Els, who held a two-stroke lead at the start of the final round, pushed his lead to three strokes on the second hole. Zhang moved into a tie for the lead with birdies on Nos. 3, 4, and 7.

This is Ernie Els I beat. The world No. 2, who is playing very well right now.
Zhang Lian-Wei

"I played OK but I didn't putt well at all. From tee to green I was pretty good but from the 15th onwards, I didn't play well," said Els, who made bogeys on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 18. "It is always tough to lose like this but it has happened before and will probably happen again."

Zhang bogeyed the 202-yard, par-3 17th, giving Els a one-stroke lead.

Even Zhang seemed surprised with the two-stroke swing on the final hole and his victory.

"I was pretty pumped up on the front nine, but even then I was still targeting a top-3 finish," Zhang said. "This is Ernie Els I beat. The world No. 2, who is playing very well right now."

In eight years on the Asian PGA and Japan Tours, Zhang has won $785,486. In contrast, Els has earned $3.81 million from his last three tournaments.

Els swept the PGA Tour's Hawaii events the last two weeks to become the first player since Steve Jones in 1989 to win the tour's first two tournaments of the year.

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng finished third, one stroke behind Els. England's Simon Khan and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber tied for fourth another stroke back.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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