He had to wait to claim the title at the Maybank Championship. Twice actually. But, in the end, it was worth it for Scott Hend. First, after a one-hour, 40 minute delay because of “dangerous weather” on the 72nd hole, the 45-year-old Florida-based Australian had returned to the 18th green at the Saujana Golf & Country Club in Kaula Lumpur to complete what looked like a fairly straightforward victory.
Maybe 25 feet away from the cup in three on the 569-yard par 5, Hend was 15 under par and one-shot clear of his playing partner, Nacho Elvira. The Spaniard was 30 feet or so out, also putting for birdie. And in it went. Two putts from Hend later, the European Tour had its first playoff of the 2018-’19 season.
The second test of Hend’s patience was a bit shorter. One hole to be exact. Bunkered off the tee on that same 18th, Elvira could do no better than par. And when the Aussie got up-and-down for birdie from a greenside bunker, he had his third career European Tour win.
“I had my mind on the job the whole time,” said the champion, who had lost two playoffs since his last victory at the 2016 Thailand Classic. “Nacho holed a magnificent putt to tie, which just shows that anything can happen in golf. I had to think he would hole it. But I still had a chance to win. I’m just glad it went my way.”
For the record, Hend shot a closing 67, overnight-leader Elvira 70. Jazz Janewattanond of Thailand was third alone on 13 under, with Oliver Fisher, the first and so far only man to shoot 59 on the European Tour, T-5 alongside Max Kieffer of Germany. Four-time major champion Ernie Els was one of a six-strong group tied for seventh. It was the 300th top-10 finish of the 49-year-old South African’s long professional career.
Of all the contenders though, Elvira was initially counting himself most unfortunate. Pitching to the 72nd green in what had rapidly turned into a torrential downpour, a loud clap of thunder disturbed the Spaniard’s backswing—the natural prelude to the lightning that left the tournament director with no alternative but to halt play—the ball coming up well short of its intended target. No matter. The putt that led to the playoff was never going anywhere else but the bottom of the cup.
Earlier, the leading pair had indulged in quite a battle. Elvira’s initial advantage was gone by the seventh green, the result of the big-hitting Hend’s four birdies to that point. One more birdie at the ninth saw the eventual champion out in 31 and ahead for the first time. Both men dropped their only shots of the day at the 10th, before another—predictable—Hend birdie at the par-5 13th established a two-shot edge that was halved by Elvira’s birdie at the penultimate hole.