MANILA---Berry Henson leaned on a slew of clutch shots to end an eight-year wait for a major golf tour victory yesterday.
The 32-year-old American gutted out a closing one-over-par 73 to turn back Filipino Jay Bayron and win the $300,000 ICTSI Philippine Open by one shot at Wack Wack’s unforgiving East course.
Henson, wire-to-wire winner of the Clearwater Masters on the Asian Development Tour in Malaysia last May 1, clinched a breakthrough victory on the Asian Tour with a 283 total. He won $47,550.
Bayron fought hard all day and salvaged an eagle-spiked 72 for 284, one shot ahead of the pocket-sized but long-hitting South African Jbe Kruger, who also gave a gallant chase only to lose some steam in the back nine for a 73.
After Henson, the overnight leader, opened his final round with a bogey, the soft-spoken Bayron—who started the day two shots off—grabbed the lead on No. 2 when he holed a wedge from under 100 yards for an eagle 2.
But the American reclaimed the upperhand when Bayron bogeyed the fourth, then dunked a downhill putt that had looked ready to roll off the green and possibly into the lagoon for birdie on No. 7.
“That was an unbelievable putt on No. 7,” said Henson, who covered his face with his golf cap while acknowledging the cheers from the gallery.
“When I made that putt, I thought that this could be my week,” added the eight-year pro from California, who, until yesterday, has won only $7,000 this year.
India’s Digvijay Singh carded a 71 for 286 and fourth spot, two ahead of Thailand’s Kwanchai Tannin, who closed out with a 73, and Filipino Mars Pucay, who struggled to a 74 like Pariya Juhasavasdikul also of Thailand.
$32,500 for Bayron
Rufino Bayron, Jay’s younger brother, booked a top-10 finish, a tie for eighth spot with four others, after shooting a second straight 72 for 289.
Jay bankrolled $32,550, while Rufino won $6,103.20.
The last of Henson’s great character tests came on the 18th, where he also pushed his second shot into the rough.
Bayron also missed the green short, but was in perfect shape for an easy up-and-down, which he pulled off by lobbing a sand wedge to within gimme distance.
But Henson, who three-putted the 17th for bogey, was up to the task as he looped his third shot to within four feet and then nailed the par putt.
“I’ve been working very hard on my short game,” Henson said. “No doubt that it was my career’s best up-and-down so far. I hit it perfect (out of the rough) and I was a little nervous facing that putt.”
Bayron kept plodding along despite trailing by three at the turn to wind up with his best finish on the Asian Tour since turning pro two years ago.
A former caddy from Davao’s Apo Golf, the 34-year-old Bayron actually pulled even after birdies on 11 and 13, only to drop critical shots on Nos. 14 and 15 to fall behind by two again.
Bayron then made brilliant saves from the bunkers on Nos. 16 and 17 and crept within what turned out to be the final deficit when Henson three-putted the penultimate hole from about 50 feet.
The final scores:
283—B. Henson (USA) 69-70-71-73; 284—J.Bayron 69-69-74-72; 285—J. Kruger (RSA) 71-68-73-73; 286—D. Singh (IND) 70-72-73-71; 288—K. Tannin (THA) 73-70-72, M. Pucay 69-73-72-74, P. Junhasavasdikul (THA) 71-72-71-74; 289—D. Kataoka (JPN) 70-69-79-71, R. Bayron 76-69-72-72, W. Lin (TPE) 71-75-71-72, B. Smith (AUS) 72-76-68-73, P. Meesawat (THA) 70-72-72-75; 290—T. Wang (TPE) 69-72-73-76; 291— A. Pratthummanee (THA) 74-72-72-73, P. Swangarunporn (THA) 73-74-71-73, Z. Moe (MYA) 74-72-71-74, T. Sriroj (THA) 71-73-72-75, C. Nirat (THA) 72-71-71-77; 292—C. Phadungsil (THA) 72-72-77-71, S. Baek (KOR) 73-69-77-73, P. Karmis (RSA) 69-73-75-75; 293—Q. Quek (SIN) 71-74-79-69, U. Park (AUS) 73-72-76-72, N. Turner (IRL) 72-72-75-74, L. Lee (BRA) 72-70-74-77, M. Hsung (TPE) 74-70-72-77, J. Pagunsan 73-69-73-78; 294—A. Groom (AUS) 72-72-76-74, T. Khrongpha (THA) 68-79-71-76, H. Rai (IND) 69-70-77-79; 295—J. Moore (USA) 74-73-73-75; 296 - T. Kawane (JPN) 70-73-79-74, D. Beck (AUS) 71-72-77-76, S. Othman (MAS) 73-73-73-77, E. Salvador 73-74-71-78; 297—M. Jaini (IND) 72-74-78-73, F. Aunzo 76-70-77-74, Siddikur (BAN) 71-72-78-76, C. Harris (USA) 71-73-77-76, P. Pittarayat (THA) 71-69-80-77, N. Tantipokhakul (THA) 7-2-71-76-78, A. Lascuna 72-72-75-78; 298—Y. Chan (TPE) 76-70-83-69, C. Kumar (IND) 75-69-79-75, F. Miñoza 76-72-75-75, A. Asistio 76-72-74-76, P. Muenlek (THA) 73-75-72-78, S. Singh (IND) -71-74-74-79, T. Chuayprakong (THA) -72-72-74-80; 299—V. Chopra (IND) 76-72-76-75, S. Griffiths (ENG) 72-72-78-77, I. Steel (MAS) 72-72-77-78, M. Rosenfeld (USA) 72-74-75-78; 300—M. Bibat 76-70-78-76, H. Naito (JPN) 69-76-77-78, A. Que 73-73-75-79, S. Chandhran (MAS) 74-73-74-79; 301—R. Gibson (CAN) 73-71-81-76, I. Park (KOR) 73-74-77-77; 302—B. Leong (MAS) 73-74-74-81; 303—R. Bain (SCO) 74-74-79-76, G. Bondoc 71-74-79-79; 305—J. Makitalo (FIN) 74-72-77-82; 308—M. Dumandan 69-75-83-81.