KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Fabrizio Zanotti completed a brilliant final round with a birdie-eagle finish to claim a one-shot victory at the Maybank Championship on Sunday as the Paraguayan stormed to his second European Tour title.
The 33-year-old trailed overnight leader Danny Willett by six shots at the start of the day, aware that only a faultless 18 holes were required to capture a first win since he triumphed in a playoff at the 2014 BMW International Open.
He duly obliged, scorching the Saujana Golf and Country Club course with a bogey-free round of nine-under-par 63 to finish with a 72-hole total of 19-under.
As U.S. Masters champion Willett let slip his three-shot advantage, David Lipsky emerged as Zanotti’s closest rival but the American failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the last that would have forced a playoff.
“It was a great effort, a great day for me. I am really happy,” Zanotti said in a post-round interview after Lipsky’s 12-foot birdie putt stopped short of the cup and confirmed his title.
Lipsky carded a 67 to finish on 18-under, one stroke ahead of Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and two clear of France’s Alexander Levy.
Willett, who has yet to win since his triumph at Augusta last April, never found any consistency and a bogey at the last completed a disappointing one-over round that dropped him into a share of fifth place alongside China’s Li Haotong.
Zanotti arrived in Malaysia after three missed cuts in as many tournaments this season and few would have tipped him to emerge victorious at an event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour.
“Golf is like that. I have been working a lot in the pre-season with my coach, with my team and making a few changes, seeing my golf swing,” he said.
“I just got here... three missed cuts in a row. I thought I will just take it easy this week. It was that way. I played very calm, played shot-by-shot all the four rounds.”
In a round worthy of winning any title, Zanotti picked up four shots on the front nine and added three more birdies coming in before he celebrated the spectacular eagle on the par-five 18th in Seve Ballesteros style with a fist pump and a roar.
The Paraguayan admitted that he had not considered winning the tournament until he registered his sixth birdie of the day.
“When I made the birdie on 15th, that one was a good birdie,” he said. “That moment I thought ‘Your never know but you might have a chance’.”
Lipsky made his bid for victory with a brilliant run of four straight birdies from the 10th but a bogey on the 14th halted his momentum.
The American stayed calm and moved to within one shot of the lead with a birdie on the penultimate hole, set up by a pinpoint approach, but his wayward second shot on the last nestled in the sand next to the green and a poor bunker shot ended his chances.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien