New Delhi: Rashid Khan launched his Asian Tour career with a thrilling victory in the season-opening SAIL-SBI Open as he edged out Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman in the play-off at the Delhi golf Club here on Saturday.
Both players finished the regulation 72 holes 18-under par 270, six strokes ahead of Sweden's Rikard Karlberg. Carlos Pigem of Spain, Swiss Martin Rominger and India's SSP Chowrasia finished tied fourth.
Rashid went for an aggressive all-or-nothing approach shot from the fairway after his tee-shot to place the ball 20-feet away from the pin. He missed the 20-feet eagle putt but still made a birdie.
Siddikur, on the other hand, took three shots to reach the greens and could only make the par after missing out of a 10-feet birdie putt. He carded three-under 69 in the final round.
The 23-year-old Delhi golfer broke into a wide smile and his friends celebrated in joy as Rashid launched his Asian tour career in style.
"This is a special win for me because it came at my home course. I had lost last year. So it was really important," said Rashid, who managed a final round of 71.
"The way I played on the first day, I was confident but Siddikur played very well last two days and at the end the title came in a play-off. I am happy," Rashid, who became richer by USD 54,000, added.
He had lost the title to Anirban Lahiri in a play-off last year here playing on PGTI card.
Two-time defending champion Anirban, Asian tour winner Jyoti Randhawa, Abhijit Singh and Sri Lanka's Mithun Perera signed off at the tied eighth spot at nine-under 279.
Karlberg (71, 70, 67) whose both Asian tour wins came at the Delhi Golf Club during the SAIL Open and Indian Open in 2010, carded a four-under 68. Pigem (69, 71, 69), who had finished 21st place in the last edition, also turned in a 68 to total 11-under 277.
Starting the day under a laden sky on a chilly Saturday morning, Rashid finished the third round at three-under 69 to hang on to a two-stroke lead over Siddikur, who turned in a five-under 67 for the third successive time.
However, Rashid's fortunes tumbled early in the fourth round as Siddikur caught up with the Indian at 17-under after firing an eagle in the first hole.
But Siddikur then stumbled on a bogey-birdie patch at the third and fourth holes as Rashid once again gained a one-stroke lead when he scored a birdie on the seventh hole.
But a bogey on the ninth, meant the duo were once again on an even-keel.
A 13th hole bogey by Rashid took Siddikur atop the leaderboard once again. But a lucky birdie at the 17th hole helped him to claw back as the duo birdied the 18th to take the match into the play off.
"I want to thank my family and friends but special thanks to Ashok Kumar, who helped me change a few things in my swing and I really hit the ball well," Rashid said.
The Delhi golfer lost a few play-offs in the past and he said he was happy he could pull off this time.
"I played seven play offs in last 14 months and won only three. Even the last event I lost inplay off in BILT. So I was scared. It was 50-50 for me.
After a rollercoaster day, Rashid fired two birdies in the last two holes to go into the play-off.
"I was trying to hit the ball to the greens at the 17th so that I can get a chance to hit a birdie but I played a bad shot. But I don't know how my shot pitched just over the bunker and went close to the pin. I was really shocked. May be because of that I could get into the play off," he said.
"I had to be aggressive and so I took my driver out and hit a good shot to the middle of the fairway and from their I hit a 270 yard flat shot. There I hit one of the best shots, which landed just 20 feet away from the pin and then I made a two-feet putt for a birdie," said Rashid, who won the Rolex ranking last year.
With this victory, Rashid will receive a three-year exemption from Asian Tour and the Indian said it means a lot to him.
"It means a lot to me. Last year, I had no country exemption, no Asian tour card. I had nothing. I lost in the play-off in SAIL Open, it was heart breaking. I had to make the card in five tournaments. I played really good golf last year and earned the Asian tour. So it was special.
"I was hoping to win a Asian tour title. Now that I have won one at home course, I will keep looking for another title this year," he said.
Asked about his career so far, he said: "It has been a great journey. In 2006, I finished number one in junior, then finished number one in three consecutive years in amateur circuit. In the pro circuit also a lot was expected from me. I finished fourth, second and number one, thanks to God." Siddikur, who had won the Indian Open at DGC last year, regretted not using his driver during the play off.
"It was a good play-off. I played my game but I should have played driver. I used my three wood which was not sufficient in the play-off for birdie. I have used three wood in the first four rounds and made birdie there but not in the play-off," he said.
"Rashid played extremely well as the first day, he shot 11 under. He deserves to win. He is a talented player. It was nice to play with him. I saw his game and he is a really good player."
The 29-year-old from Bangladesh, who finished in the top-10 of the Order of Merit list on three occasions in the past four seasons, said this performance will help him when he plays in the EurAsia cup.
"It's going to help me for the EurAsia Cup. It's my first event of the 2014 season. I have played twice in the Indian circuit the past few weeks and I think it will help me in the EurAsia Cup.
"The way I'm hitting the ball now, I'm quite happy. My short game is going good and I hope to help Team Asia. I also made some mistakes, could not hole my putts from 10 feet. Missed some chances and if I had holed some, I could have won. But it's okay, there has to be a winner and a loser."