Jamie Donaldson wins in Thailand to book Masters and Open places
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 13/12/15 2:06pm
Jamie Donaldson booked his place at the Masters and The Open next year after clinching a composed three-shot victory at the Thailand Golf Championship.
Donaldson fired a sublime seven-under 65 to overhaul third-round leader Clement Sordet, while Lee Westwood closed with a 67 to snatch a tie for second which is expected to ensure his return to Augusta National in April.
The leading trio all secured places in the field at Royal Troon for the first Open Championship to be broadcast live on Sky Sports, while 16-year-old Phachara Khongwatmai also qualified following a brilliant 66 at Amata Spring.
Donaldson trailed by two overnight, but he soon vaulted back into the lead when he birdied the first three holes, and further gains at the seventh and eighth put daylight between himself and his playing partners.
The Ryder Cup star opened the door with a bogey at the ninth, but he got back on track with birdies at 10, 12 and 15, although he gave another shot back after a wayward drive into thick rough at the 16th forced him to lay up.
But the gallant Welshman safely hit the island green at the 17th and his 35 foot putt caught enough of the hole to drop for his fourth two of the week there, and it gave him the luxury of a two-stroke advantage coming down the last.
Donaldson took the safe route and two-putted from off the front edge to close on 21 under par, wrapping up his first victory since the Czech Masters in August last year.
Westwood needed at least a share of second to join Donaldson back in the world top 50 and seal a place at the Masters, and he managed that when Sordet missed his 10-foot putt for par at the last.
The two-time champion birdied the first two holes but the putts dried up as he had to settle for eight consecutive pars before breaking the sequence with birdies at 10 and 11.
He closed within two of Donaldson when he birdied 16 as the Welshman bogeyed, but Westwood's makeable birdie putts on each of the last two greens were narrowly off target and he signed for a faultless 67.
Sordet could not match the heights of his third-round 63 and struggled to keep pace with Donaldson, and the Frenchman's slip at the last added up to a 70 and left him tied for second with Westwood on 18 under.
Sergio Garcia and Byeong-Hun An were a further four strokes adrift after closing rounds of 69 and 70 respectively, while young Thai teenager Khongwatmai produced one of the performances of the day as his 66, featuring four birdies in six holes on the back nine, lifted him to outright sixth on 13 under - one ahead of Martin Kaymer.
Meanwhile, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson provided the highlight of the day when his tee-shot to the 194-yard fifth pitched 15 feet short of the flag and rolled into the centre of the cup, and the American went on to fire a 67 to earn a top-15 finish on eight under.