Aussie golfer Herbert in thrilling playoff win in Japan

April 23, 2023 04:42 PM AEST | By AAPNEWS
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Australian golfer Lucas Herbert has ridden his luck to claim a third DP World Tour victory with a thrilling play-off win at the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan.

Herbert fashioned an improbable birdie on the second extra hole to deny Canadian Aaron Cockerill a maiden professional title in a dramatic climax at the PGM Ishioka GC in Omitama.

Playing the 18th for a second time - after both players narrowly missed birdie chances at the first attempt in the sudden-death play-off - Herbert's hopes looked to have been lost in the trees off the tee.

But his ball landed on the cart path, allowing the Victorian to take a free drop with a clear shot to the green.

Herbert then tucked his approach to about 12 feet and drained the birdie putt to add the title to DP World Tour triumphs at the 2020 Dubai Desert Classic and 2021 Irish Open.

He had closed with a final-round three-under-par 67 to finish level with third-round leader Cockerill (68) at 15-under after 72 regulation holes.

Starting the play-off on the 18th, Herbert went agonisingly close to holing his chip from behind the green for birdie before Cockerill's own birdie try to win it lipped out.

Then the golfing gods shone on the Bendigo talent.

"It feels pretty good," Herbert said of his miracle winning birdie.

"I hit that tee shot and thought that might be the end for us.

"I thought it was going to be in those trees back there and so I didn't think I was going to have an angle, didn't think I was going to have a shot, to be honest, and thought I was going to struggle to make par and push it to a third play-off hole.

"So to get the break I got ... it just kind of fell into place down that right side.

"And to get it in close, it just felt like if I didn't take that chance, it was going to fall away and potentially hurt me later so I knew I had to take advantage when I had it."

While challenged all day, Herbert was never headed after making a birdie from the fairway trap on the first hole and jagging an eagle on the par-5 fifth.

He briefly fell back into a share of the lead with bogeys on eight and 11 but rebounded each time with birdies, and showed great poise down the stretch with a series of testing two-putts from long range.

Herbert's victory is sweet consolation for missing a ticket to this month's Masters by one rankings spot and continues his impressive run of form in 2023.

He recorded consecutive third-placed finishes in Dubai and Saudi Arabia before losing to world No.2 Rory McIlroy in a thrilling last-16 battle at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas for his first top-10 PGA Tour finish since winning the Bermuda Championship in October, 2021.

The 27-year-old will return to the top 50 in the rankings and climb to fourth in the Race to Dubai standings.

Callum Hill (65) finished outright third at 14 under, one shot ahead of Scottish compatriot Grant Forrest (68) and Japan's Hiroshi Iwata (65).


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