By Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia.
Victorian Deyen Lawson has survived a nervous back-nine wobble to win the Nexus Advisernet WA Open in Perth by two strokes.
From his opening day eight-under 62 Lawson’s name sat atop the leaderboard, arriving at The Western Australian Golf Club on Sunday with an eight-shot advantage.
That lead got to as much as nine on the front nine of the final round yet two back-nine bogeys and a double bogey three holes from home brought 2019 champion Michael Sim to within four.
When Sim holed a birdie putt from five feet on 18 Lawson’s lead was just two as he lined up his second shot from the left rough.
His trusty 3-wood put him within 20 metres of the front of the green, a chip and two putts ending a nerve-wracking round of one-over 71 for a two-shot win and a first victory on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
“It’s not easy. It never is. I’ve won some smaller events and it’s never easy,” said Lawson, a four-time runner-up on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
“Sometimes if you’re that far in front… you try not to have thoughts creep in but I just kept pushing and pushing.
“Through nine I might have got nine shots ahead and then thought, Now just hang on. Which was not the right thing to do.
“In future I know that if I’ve ever got a good lead I need to just keep pushing until I finish. Really keep firing.
“I’ve seen too many times everywhere in the world, guys let big leads slip. Until it’s in, anything can happen.
“Even the three-and-a-half footer I had on 18, I only had to two-putt but I wanted to make sure I made it so it’s done.”
Sim’s equal-best round of the day – six-under 64 – earned him outright second at 18-under, Queenslander Chris Wood (66) third at 16-under and Sydney amateur Jeffrey Guan (68) fourth, his best finish in a professional event and winner of the Terry Gale Cup as low amateur.
Winner of the tournament over 54-holes three years ago, Sim’s pre-tournament score prediction proved prescient as he fell just two shots short of an extraordinary comeback.
“I remember saying at the pro-am lunch, that if you got to 20 (under) you’d win. That obviously happened,” said Sim.
“I’m just happy with how I played the last couple of weeks after not much golf.”
Guan laid down an early challenge to Lawson’s supremacy with a sublime tee shot at the par-4 first, converting his birdie from just outside a foot to reduce the deficit by one.
Now based on the Gold Coast, Sim had four birdies and a bogey in his first five holes to also draw within seven and would emerge as Lawson’s greatest threat as the back nine unfolded.
Lawson drove the green at the par-4 third and two-putted for birdie to reach 22-under and then matched the 23-under tournament record score set by Ryan Fox at Cottesloe in 2014 with an up-and-down from the front of the par-5 sixth green.
Heavy showers that intermittently swept across the course posed an additional problem, particularly for Guan who was without a caddie or an umbrella.
It did little to slow Lawson, however, a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 seventh taking him to 24-under and a nine-shot buffer.
Sim’s brilliant tee shot at the par-3 ninth set up a birdie to move into outright second at 16-under but Lawson remained eight clear of the field as he made the turn.
A sand save from the short side at 10 ensured Lawson stayed at 24-under but his first bogey of the day and Sim’s birdie in the group ahead reduced the gap to six at the par-4 12th.
That gap shrunk to five when Sim rolled in a birdie from 10 feet at the 311-metre par-4 14th to move to 18-under and what seemed an insurmountable lead was reduced to four when Lawson three-putted for bogey at 14.
The fist pump that followed Lawson’s three-footer for birdie at 15 was a rare show of emotion but more drama was to follow.
Sim made bogey after missing the green left of the par-3 16th to fall six shots back only for Lawson to three-putt for double bogey at 16, the margin back to four with two to play.
A tee shot wide right on 17 forced Lawson to punch out to the fairway and he was unable to get up-and-down, his fifth dropped shot in the space of six holes sending him to the 72nd tee with a three-stroke lead.
Sim’s birdie gave Lawson just two shots to play with to complete a wire-to-wire win, the nervy par putt from inside four feet completing a deserved win.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors and partners, who help make the WA Open possible: Bowra & O’Dea, Coca-Cola European Partners, Department of Local Government, Sport & Cultural Industries, Drummond Golf, NatSales Australia, Nexus Advisernet, Nexus Life, Toto, SportFM, Triple M, The Western Australian Golf Club, Cottesloe Golf Club, Joondalup Resort, Lake Karrinyup Country Club, Mount Lawley Golf Club, Royal Fremantle Golf Club and Royal Perth Golf Club.