VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - South Korean An Byeong Hun became only the third European Tour rookie to win the BMW PGA Championship in the 60-year history of the event when he roared to a spectacular six-shot victory on Sunday.
The 23-year-old went into the final round in a tie for the lead with Italian Francesco Molinari and pieced together a nerveless seven-under-par 65 to finish with a 21-under total of 267 on a gray but humid day at Wentworth.
An’s triumph earned him a check for 833,330 euros ($917,913) and meant he joined British pair Bernard Gallacher(1969) and Scott Drummond (2004) as rookie winners of the tour’s flagship event.
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez (67) and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (69) shared second place, two ahead of Briton Chris Wood who recorded a hole-in-one at the 14th on the way to a closing 66.
Molinari ballooned to a 74 to finish fifth on 276.
“I’m over the moon,” An told the presentation ceremony after setting a new BMW PGA scoring record in relation to par.
“I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t know a win was this close and I never thought I would win this event.”
An, whose best previous finish on the tour came when he was tied for fifth at the Qatar Masters in January, streaked clear of his title rivals with three birdies and an eagle on the back nine.
His second professional victory helped him become the first Asian to win the flagship event and also secured a five-year tour exemption in Europe.
“It’s going to be life changing,” said An, the son of two Olympic table-tennis medalists, his mother Jiao Zhimin represented China and his father Ahn Jae Hyung competed for Korea.
“This is the biggest event on the European Tour and there are a lot of benefits. I played really well today and had all the confidence going into the last couple of holes.”
Wood won a sportscar from the sponsors after using a seven-iron to ace the 178-yard 14th.
“It was a cracker of a shot,” said the Englishman. “I think my caddie was more excited than I was.”
Jimenez claimed a tour record 10th career hole-in-one in the third round and Wood explained that he had a chat with the 51-year-old Spaniard on Saturday night.
“I bumped into Miguel and said, ‘When is it my turn?’. All the players, we sort of looked at the 14th on Tuesday when we had a practice round and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’.
Wood’s ace came shortly after Trevor Fisher junior had a hole-in-one at the second but there was no prize for the South African’s effort.
There were five aces at this week’s championship, another tournament record.($1 = 0.9079 euros)
Editing by Toby Davis