Rains hand Cheng a Masters berth and pain for Ruffles and Davis
It also left another 17-year-old Australian Ryan Ruffels in near tears and in a tie for second with fellow Australian, 20-year-old Cameron Davis.
Cheng (62-68-69), who played the best round of his career, 62 on the first day, also played one of the most important shots of his young career – a superb chip for third shot leaving him a six-inch tap for a birdie on the 18rth in <g data-gr-id="58">third</g> round. He ended at 11-under with the Australian pair at 10-under.
The two Indians, who had made the cut, Samarth Dwivedi (67-73-73) and Aman Raj (70-72-73) finished Tied-42nd and Tied 47th.
“It was indeed disappointing not to get a chance to improve my position,” said Dwivedi, but added, “In golf you come to accept these situations.” Aman added, “It was quite an experience, but in retrospect, one could have done better, but we <g data-gr-id="59">learnt</g> a lot.”
In <g data-gr-id="69">retrospect</g> the final hole on the third day proved to be the decisive one for Cheng, as also for <g data-gr-id="55">Ruffels</g> and Davis. At the end of 17 holes in <g data-gr-id="68">third</g> round, Cheng was 10-under alongside Davis with <g data-gr-id="65">Ruffels</g> one behind. Cheng and <g data-gr-id="66">Ruffels</g> birdies, while Davis parred.
<g data-gr-id="62">Ruffels</g> was left ruing his missed 12-foot eagle putt and Davis was left mulling over his missed 12-15 footer for birdie. But both gave full marks to Cheng who on the same hole played a brilliant chip to less than six inches for a tap-in birdie that proved to the winning stroke.
The few holes of play that did take place in the morning for an hour under cloudy skies were a mere aberration on the final day. A lengthy suspension in play, due to high winds and rainfall eliminated the possibility of play being completed before darkness.
At 7.41 just as <g data-gr-id="61">Ruffels</g> and Davis began their warm-up alongside Cheng, another squall put an end to whatever possibility there may have been of play on the final day at the normally postcard-like picturesque Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, which on this Sunday presented a grim picture amidst angry clouds, strong <g data-gr-id="64">winds</g> and rains.
The consolation for <g data-gr-id="56">Ruffels</g> and Davis is both, besides Cheng, get into the Open Qualifying Series Final and try to and make the 2016 Open.
“At that time (the chip on 18th in <g data-gr-id="71">third</g> round) I did not realize it could be the winning shot. I was just trying to play my best. I was focused on every shot,” said Cheng.
“I have not thought about turning a pro as yet, as I feel I am not good enough. Nor I have made my up mind on college in US and possibly I will go to Augusta to play a practice round or two before the event,” he added.
<g data-gr-id="60">Ruffels</g>, his eyes almost red, said, “We are both gutted. But the weather conditions were such that we knew play would not happen. Full credit to Cheng for that 62 and then backing it up as he did on second and third days and he held the lead throughout. That’s not easy. He is a heck of a golfer and a great guy and I have played with him a lot and I wish him all the best.”
Davis nodding throughout while <g data-gr-id="73">Ruffels</g> was speaking added, “It was really disappointing. When play began for a bit, we warmed up just as we do normally. But we had just begun and in came a squall and we were totally wet and we saw the wind was too strong.”
Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament said, “While weather regrettably shortened the event, we have identified a very worthy and talented champion in Cheng Jin. This is a moment of celebration. He showed his tremendous skill during the championship and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta next April.”