Even as the ball travelled around 10 feet, approaching the ‘cup' on the 18th hole, Digvijay Singh clenched his fist in anticipation of the biggest moment of his golfing career spanning 12 years.

The birdie-putt virtually gave Digvijay the Panasonic Open title — his maiden triumph on the Asian Tour — as it put him two strokes clear of the nearest challenger Gaganjeet Bhullar, who waited on the fairway of the 18th hole.

Extremely popular

The 40-year-old Digvijay, extremely popular due to his friendly demeanour, dropped the putter on the ground and hugged his caddie Dharmender. Seconds later, Digvijay's brother-in-law and a former winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, Jyoti Randhawa, emerged from the gallery to hug the champion.

All this while, Bhullar, knowing he needed an ‘eagle' on the par-five hole to force a play-off, stood contemplating his second shot. He sent the ball to the left of the green and eventually settled for par to share the second spot with Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman.

With the suspense over, Digvijay's six-under 66 gave him a winning aggregate of 11-under 277, two better than Bhullar and Siddikur.

Digvijay collected $47,550, received a well-crafted trophy besides a three-year-exemption from playing the qualifying rounds on the Tour. Bhullar and Siddikur received $25,425 each. Digvijay, who lost his playing privileges on the Asian Tour last season, owed it to his rhythm on this day. “I wasn't expecting anything today. I kept telling myself to stay in rhythm.”

Probed further, the first-time champion on the Tour said, “Since morning, I had this (winner's) speech going through my mind. I was driving to the course thinking about it and a cyclist almost came under my car. But, on the course, I stayed focussed. In my “speech” I was telling all those past winners in the field that you all have enough wins. I am taking it away from you all. This title is mine.” Eventually, it turned out that way.

The drama on the final day began with overnight leader Ashok Kumar sinking an ‘eagle' on the first and a birdie on the second to jump to 11-under for a three-shot lead. But Ashok lost the plot thereafter.

Bogeys on the third and fourth holes sliced Ashok's lead to one stroke. A double-bogey on the 13th brought him down to seven-under and handed over the lead to his playing partner Bhullar who sank a birdie on the same hole.

Ashok slipped further with bogeys on the 14th and 16th holes to end up in the shared eighth spot with defending champion Anirban Lahiri

With Bhullar struggling to find birdies after taking the lead on the 13th, Digvijay's birdies on the 14th (from under two feet), 16th (10 feet) and 18th (around 10 feet) made the decisive difference.

The scores (Indians unless stated): 1. Digvijay Singh (70, 73, 68, 66) 277; 2. Siddikur Rahman (Ban) (71, 67, 73, 68), Gaganjeet Bhullar (72, 67, 70, 70) 279; 4. Boonchu Ruangkit (Tha) (71, 74, 69, 67) 281; 5. Sanjay Kumar (70, 72, 75, 65), Ben Fox (USA) (73, 71, 69, 69), Shankar Das (70, 69, 71, 72) 282; 8. Anirban Lahiri (69, 75, 74, 65) and Ashok Kumar (70, 69, 69, 75) 283.

Other Indians: Harmeet Kahlon (72, 71, 75, 66), Manav Jaini (72, 67, 72, 73) 284; Raju Ali (74, 73, 69, 71) 287; Mukesh Kumar (75, 69, 74, 70), Jyoti Randhawa (71, 77, 69, 71) 288; Shamim Khan (72, 72, 73, 72) 289; Sujjan Singh (76, 71, 71, 72), S. S. P. Chowrasia (71, 72, 74, 73), Om Prakash Chouhan (71, 76, 70, 73) 290; Vijay Kumar (73, 72, 73, 73) 291; Randhir Ghotra (72, 73, 79, 68) 292; P. Gulfam (74, 74, 74, 72) 294; Rashid Khan (75, 71, 73, 75) 294; Karan Vasudeva (72, 74, 75, 76) 297; Firoz Ali (74, 75, 77, 76) 302.

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