Rai holds off Fitzpatrick to claim Hong Kong Open

England’s Aaron Rai held his nerve coming down onto the final green, taking two shots to putt and secure victory at the US$2-million purse tournament. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: England’s Aaron Rai held off a determined charge from compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick to narrowly win the Hong Kong Open by one stroke Sunday, claiming his first European Tour victory at a rain-sodden Fanling.

Having begun the final day six strokes clear, Rai carded 69 at the par-70 course — his worst round of the tournament — but Fitzpatrick’s 64 was not quite enough to chase down the 23-year-old.

World number nine Tommy Fleetwood had also started the day six strokes adrift of Rai, with each player in the all-English top three chasing a first win at Fanling.

In heavy rain, Fleetwood dropped away after bogeying the eighth and double bogeying the ninth, going on to card a three-over-par 73 and finish tied for 14th.

When Rai missed a simple putt to bogey the eighth and Fitzpatrick walked away with a birdie from the same hole, it looked as if Rai would succumb to the pressure from his more experienced rival.

But with the difference between the two at just one stroke on the 17th, it was Fitzpatrick’s turn to falter and pick up his first bogey of the day, after a simple putt curled around the lip and away from the hole.

Rai held his nerve coming down onto the final green, taking two shots to putt and secure victory at the US$2-million purse tournament.

Jason Scrivener of Australia made a late surge, carding 68 to end tied for third with France’s Victor Perez, equalling his best performance at the Hong Kong Open.