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Thai toasts Ballantine's playoff victory over duo

THONGCHAI Jaidee won the Ballantine's Championship yesterday after beating South Korea's Kang Sung-hoon and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on the first hole of a playoff.

The 39-year-old Thai clinched his fourth European Tour title when he made birdie on the par-four 18th, the first hole of the playoff at the US$2.9 million tournament on South Korea's Jeju Island.

"When we got to the playoff, I knew that I would stand a good chance as I had just finished playing that hole about 15 minutes ago," Thongchai said of winning his 12th Asian Tour title. "I knew the distance well and I was ready."

Fernandez-Castano lost his opportunity in the playoff when his second shot went through the back of the green, while Kang disappointed the locals when he pushed his six-foot birdie putt wide after he and Thongchai had reached the green in two shots.

Kang, 22, who hails from Jeju Island, also threw away a one-shot lead in regulation with a bogey on the last hole of a round which featured two eagles.

Thongchai, who had begun the day four shots behind overnight leader Robert-Jan Derksen, finished on four-under 284 for the tournament.

He started the day strongly with a birdie at the par-four first and another at the fourth before he dropped a shot at the fifth. Picking up another birdie at the 10th, he held par for the rest of the round to post a two-under 70 and forced his way into the playoff.

Biggest charge

Fernandez-Castano made the biggest charge of the day after starting five shots behind Derksen, finishing with a 69.

Kang made an eagle on the par-five 10th and another on the par-five 16th to combine with two birdies on the front nine, although the bogey at the last ruined his chance of winning a first European Tour title.

Derksen, who had a two-shot lead entering the final round, slumped to a 76 and finished on two-under.

The Dutchman ended in a tie for fourth with Briton Seve Benson (69), Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello (70) and South Africa's three-time major winner Ernie Els (71).

In Morelia, Mexico, defending champion Lorena Ochoa shot a four-under 69 in windy conditions to take a one-stroke lead over Norway's Suzann Pettersen into the final round of the Corona Championship on Saturday.

Ochoa, the top-ranked Mexican star who also won the 2006 tournament at Tres Marias, had a 20-under 199 total. After opening with consecutive bogey-free 65s, she had eight birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on Saturday.

The fifth-ranked Pettersen followed her second-round 64 with a 67. She eagled the par-five eighth and had four birdies, but failed to convert a short birdie chance on 18.

Choi Na-yeon (69) was third at 15-under, Wendy Ward (66), Morgan Pressel (67) and Irene Cho (68) were 14-under, and Cristie Kerr (66) and second-ranked Tseng Yani (66) were another stroke back. Michelle Wie was tied for 13th at 10-under. She shot a 72 after opening rounds of 66 and 71.


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