Date: July 02, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussies’ twin triumphs in Asia

A win has been a long time coming for Aussie Won Joon Lee; not so much for his white-hot compatriot Maverick Antcliff.

Lee’s victory came in the Korean PGA Championship at the weekend, while Antcliff won the Beijing Open on the China Tour.

But that’s about where the similarities end.

Sydney’s Lee, once touted as having a game to compete with Tiger Woods as the world’s top-ranked amateur, has slaved for almost 13 years as a professional on tours around the globe before his breakthrough.

So to wait one more hole to edge Korean Hyungseok Seo in a playoff was scarcely a concern.

For Antcliff, however, winning in China has become something of a luxurious habit.

The Queenslander, now in his fourth year as a pro, won for the first time earlier this year, but incredibly has now won three times on the China Tour in just 10 weeks.

Antcliff, who shared 13th place at last year’s Australian Open in near anonymity, was again super efficient, this time winning by four strokes, set up by a second-round 65 and a closing 67.

Even better news for Australia came with Victorian Bryden Macpherson runner-up in Beijing, his third top-10 of the season and good for ninth on the order of merit.

Not surprisingly though, Antcliff has a stranglehold on that crown, already having banked almost $100,000 in five events, more than three times in excess of his nearest rival.

He bounced to a career-high No.220 in the world rankings, up 367 places from his 2018 year-ending position.

Lee, runner-up to Craig Parry in the 2007 Australian Open, also moved to a career-high No.231, his consistency this year having moved him up from No.383 at the close of 2018.

The Japanese Tour regular, who is based in Seoul for much of the year, had begun his final round in Yangsan five strokes clear, but fell back into a share of the lead with a nervous bogey on the 71st hole.

Remarkably, Lee’s drive up the final regulation hole went into the right water, but was not completely submerged and he managed to scramble a par as his rival’s winning attempt slid by the cup.

On the playoff hole, Lee calmly rolled in his birdie to salute and become just the fourth non-Korean to win one of the country’s most prized titles, emulating Melbourne’s Matt Griffin 2014 win in the process.

Among the prizes, including a lucrative $250,000 (approx) payday, Lee earnt a start in the US PGA Tour’s CJ Cup at Nine Bridges later this year – in what he hopes is a stepping stone back to the United States following a couple of seasons on the then Nationwide Tour earlier in his career.

“I do not want to stop here,” Lee said.

“I want to win a few more times (but) I am very happy to win today.”