SYDNEY (Reuters) - Unheralded Mexican Abraham Ancer ignited his round with a remarkable chip-in before winning the Australian Open by five strokes on Sunday to join a host of golfing greats in lifting the Stonehaven Cup.
The world number 96, whose only previous win as a professional came on the Web.com tour in 2015, started the day with a five-shot cushion and a final-round three-under-par 69 proved more than enough for victory on 16-under 272.
Australians Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod made things interesting for the galleries at The Lakes Golf Club with a glut of birdies but Ancer’s overnight lead always looked like being too large a deficit to overcome.
“I’m really on cloud nine at the moment,” Ancer told reporters. “I’d never been to Australia before this week and I think I’m really starting to love this country.
“I didn’t want to think about my lead, I just wanted to carry out my plan. I had the lead at a couple of PGA events last year and it didn’t work out. I learned a lot from that and it all worked out today.”
Papadatos (67) finished second on 11-under with McLeod (66) in third a shot further back with both earning the right to play with Ancer at next year’s British Open in Northern Ireland.
Local Marcus Fraser finished with a 70 for fourth on nine-under with a group of five players sharing fifth, including Japanese amateur Keita Nakajima who started the day in second place and rounded out an impressive week with a 72.
American drawcards Keegan Bradley and Matt Kuchar both shot final round 75s to finish well off the pace in a share of 17th and 23rd respectively.
Texas-born Ancer had his game face on for much of the day but even he could not resist a huge grin when he chipped in at the fourth.
The 27-year-old sent the ball well wide of the flag onto a bank at the back of the green and watched it spin at an extraordinary angle back into the hole for a birdie that extended his lead to seven shots.
The midas touch continued with two more birdies at the eighth and ninth but a bogey at the par-four 12th brought the chasing pack to within four shots.
Ancer flirted with the water with his approach shot at the 14th but the ball stuck in the rough as it rolled back towards the lake and he was able to snaffle another birdie.
Born in Texas but raised over the border in Mexico, Ancer joins a glittering honour roll at the Australian Open with Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman among the former winners.
His margin of victory was the largest since Jordan Spieth triumphed by six shots in 2014, a win the American said acted as a springboard to his annus mirabilis when he won two majors the following year.
“This win will give me a lot of confidence and hopefully it’ll be the case for me as well,” Ancer grinned.
“The names on this Cup are absolutely incredible.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty