Rai wins first European Tour title in Hong Kong


Aaron Rai claimed his maiden European Tour title with a one-shot victory at the Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi

Aaron Rai saw off a world class field to complete a wire-to-wire victory and win his maiden title on the European Tour on Sunday. 

"It's incredible," he said after his win. "It definitely hasn't sunk in just yet. I'll probably need a few days for that to happen.

The Englishman held a six-shot lead heading in to the final round but saw that advantage cut to just one as he fended off a strong challenge from fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick during a thrilling final-round battle. 

With the rain pouring at the Hong Kong Golf Club, Fitzpatrick piled the pressure on the three-time Challenge Tour winner. 

Rai made back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth holes to move to 18-under, but dropped shots at both the sixth and eighth stalled Rai's momentum as Fitzpatrick closed the gap to two thanks to four birdies in his opening 10 holes. 

Both men quickly made two further birdies to add to their totals: Rai rattled in a 15-footer on the 12th and picked up another shot on the 13th, while Fitzpatrick also added birdied at the 13th and 14th holes.

On the 16th hole Fitzpatrick drained his 20-foot putt at the 16th to narrow the gap to one, but his challenge faltered when he carded his first bogey of the day at the 17th. 

Rai replied with a dropped shot of his own at the last, but a closing 69 to finish on 17 under par was enough to secure his first title in just his 46th European Tour appearance.

"It's incredible to win on any Tour, let alone the European Tour and let alone the Hong Kong Open," Rai said.

"It's an incredible course, incredible event, very well supported. The crowds have been amazing. I'm just very grateful.

"Matt played incredibly all day. It was tough but again, I really just tried to play the course as much as possible rather than Matt or anyone else who was playing well today.

"I luckily managed to do that for most of the way around. It was tough considering the situation but I'm very pleased."

Fitzpatrick's final-round 64 saw him finish alone in second on 16 under, with Challenge Tour graduate Victor Perez and Australian Jason Scrivener five shots further back in a tie for third place.

Scot David Drysdale was on his own in fifth after Sunday's 66, while India's Shubhankar Sharma and Spanish pair Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello were another stroke back in a share of sixth.