OMEGA ambassador Zhang Lian-Wei is celebrating today, having secured a dramatic one-shot victory in the US Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg. Victory made the self-taught Zhang the first Chinese to win a European tournament and only the fifth Asian to achieve the feat.
Zhang holed a four-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole for a final round two-under-par 70 to overhaul OMEGA ambassador Ernie Els who had started the day two shots ahead of the Chinese number one and had never been headed at Laguna National Golf and Country Club.
Zhang trailed Els by a stroke going into the final hole but produced the shot of the tournament to set up a climactic finish. With Els having pushed his drive into rough on the right of the fairway, Zhang hit a nine iron 136 yards over two bunkers to within four foot of the flag.
Els, looking for his fourth straight win after victory in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last December the Mercedes Championships and the Sony Open in Hawaii over the past fortnight, hit his approach out of the rough to the front of the green and chipped up to five feet but missed his par effort. He shot one over 73.
Zhang became the first Chinese, and just the fifth Asian, to win on the European Tour with his 10-under-par total of 278 (68-71-69-70) and will receive a three year exemption. He won US$150,000 for what was his fourth win on the Asian PGA He beat Nick Price of Zimbabwe, like Els a three-time Major champion, at the fifth extra hole to retain the Macau Open title last October.
"I am so delighted as I have played so many times on the European Tour. I have never won before and my best placing with fifth (in the 2000 Malaysian Open). This time I am so happy," said Zhang.
Els, whose back-to-back wins in Hawaii on the US PGA Tour - of which OMEGA is the Official Timekeeper - elevated him to world number two, was disappointed not to secure another victory , but he took his hat off to the winner of the match: "He stuck in well and didn't make any mistakes really".
OMEGA congratulates Zhang on his win and looks forward to celebrating many further successes with its two golfing ambassadors in the near future.
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