25 September 2022: Australian Travis Smyth finally got the monkey off his back and won his maiden title on the Asian Tour today when he recorded an impressive two-shot victory in the US$700,000 Yeangder TPC at Linkou International Golf and Country Club, in Taipei. Honey Baisoya (67), Ajeetesh Sandhu (68) and Rashid Khan (68) ended the week seven strokes behind the leader. The three Indians were tied in eighth at 12-under 276.
The 27 year old from Sydney drew on a season of strong performances and near misses to fire his second successive six-under-par 66 for a tournament total of 19 under, with defending champion Lee Chieh-po from Chinese-Taipei finishing runner up after an equally fine 67.
Chinese-Taipei’s Wang Wei-hsuan (67), Nicholas Fung from Malaysia (67), American Berry Henson (68), and Bjorn Hellgren from Sweden (69) tied for third, five behind the winner.
Smyth started the day with a one-shot lead and proved uncatchable after he birdied four out of the first six to make the turn in four under before virtually wrapping things up by making three birdies in a row from the 10th. With a healthy lead the surprise double bogey he made on the 15th, which were his only dropped shots of the day, was not too damaging particularly as he responded with his final birdie of the day on the next.
The victory made up for narrowly failing to win the International Series England in June where he was second – a result that earned him starts on the LIV Golf Invitational series.
“Feels amazing!” said an overjoyed Smyth, who picked up a cheque for US$126,000.
“I got so close, I felt like I let it go in England and to play some LIV events, feel what it’s like there, I just want to get back. I want to be the player that I believe I can be, and winning this week is one step along the journey.”
On the 15th his ball plugged in a bunker, after a big hook with his nine iron, from where he splashed out and three putted to make the closing stages slightly more interesting.
He becomes the 11th first-time winner this season, and first Australian to win the event.
He added: “The opening nine, or first five, six holes are quite easy, but it’s a tight course so you have to hit it straight. You got to be below the hole, you got to roll the putts in, and I just did exactly that. Set the pace for the day. But you know the guy I was playing with, Lee Chieh-po, he played amazing. I was always like one, two or three shots within him, and he kept playing well and applying pressure, so it wasn’t easy that’s for sure.”
Smyth earned his place on the Asian Tour by finishing joint third at Qualifying School in 2018 and after a number of good results since then, a first victory had been expected soon.
For Lee it was his best finish on the Asian Tour as when he won last year the tournament was held solely as a domestic event – the result of travel restrictions caused by the global pandemic.
He said: “I think I did well today. Travis was just too good. I played well in this tough conditions. And my overall 72-hole score is better than my winning score last year so there is some improvement! I am happy with how I played this week. Happy to set a new personal best result on the Asian Tour.
“I think my card should be safe for next year. Looking forward to playing on the Asian Tour again. I am happy with my performance this week, some unfortunate misses today but overall, it was good. Travis played close to perfection today, except for that double bogey on 15 which didn’t really make a lot of difference.”
He also began well with birdies on one, seven and eight followed by two more on 10 and 12 to put some pressure on his Australian opponent but his chance of victory slipped away when he dropped shots on 13 and 15.
For Henson it was yet another good week in the Yeangder TPC, where he has recorded three top 10s in the past, including a joint fourth place finish a decade ago.
“I’m playing some great golf, I’ve played well all week,” said the American, who began with an eagle of the par-five first.
“Made a few mistakes that could have been prevented, but I mean, all in all a good week. I’m striking it unbelievably well, hit my driver fantastic. The putter has been a little hot and cold. But I mean, my game is the best it’s been in a couple years, just been really, really solid.
“I mean I love coming to Linkou, I’ve always feel like this is a course I can win on after I figured out how to play it. But the first year not so much. But yeah, a super positive week for me. It’s easy to kind of take some of the negatives out of it. But I’m happy with where my game is at, that I’ve put in some hard work and it seems to be paying off.”
Today was also Hellgren’s best result on the Asian Tour.
He said: “I got off to a hot start on the front nine, I think I was four under. I just tried to play the course I didn’t care what the other guys were doing. Because this is a tricky course you need to put the ball in play.
“And then I don’t know what happened, I kind of lost it a little bit there for a while I made a bogey on 10. Just kept getting bad lies, like really bad lies, and then came back strong with a birdie on 17. So, I’m quite happy.”
The Asian Tour stays in Chinese-Taipei next week for the Mercuries Taiwan Masters, which will be played at Taiwan Golf and Country Club, from September 29 to October 2.
Scores after round 4 of the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship being played at the par 72, 7108 Yards Linkou GcC course (am – denotes amateur):
269 – Travis Smyth (AUS) 68-69-66-66.
271 – Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 67-68-69-67.
274 – Wang Wei-hsuan (TPE) 70-68-69-67, Nicholas Fung (MAS) 72-68-67-67, Berry Henson (USA) 68-67-71-68, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 68-68-69-69.
275 – Liu Yen-Hung (TPE) 69-68-69-69.
276 – Honey Baisoya (IND) 71-69-69-67, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 67-68-73-68, Rashid Khan (IND) 68-70-70-68.
277 – Chan Shih-chang (TPE) 66-71-74-66, Ben Leong (MAS) 66-73-68-70, Settee Prakongvech (THA) 69-66-70-72.
278 – Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA) 71-73-67-67, Daniel Fox (AUS) 69-70-71-68, Justin Quiban (PHI) 73-66-69-70, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 69-64-71-74.
279 – Lin Keng-wei (TPE) 67-71-72-69, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 70-70-70-69, S Chikkarangappa (IND) 69-68-72-70, Wang Tsung-chieh (TPE) 68-70-70-71.