Kiwi Richard Lee fell in love with the game of golf again yesterday after scoring a stunning victory in the US$500,000 Thailand Open. The 31-year-old Aucklander came to Phuket with no hope of winning after missing the cut by a mile in the Myanmar Open. 'Last week in Myanmar I absolutely hated the game,' he said after beating Aussie Scott Barr in a play-off at the Blue Canyon Country Club. 'I knew I was going to miss the cut so I started playing around with my swing and I found something.' He also tinkered with his putting and the transformation from loser to winner left him dumbfounded. 'It feels a bit strange ... surreal even,' Lee said. 'I never imagined I'd win. 'I have had exemptions on the Aussie and Japan Tours but have lost them all. You reach a stage when you wonder where you are headed. I turned pro at 20 and I have been struggling for a long time. I thought maybe I'm coming to an end.' Lee's only other claim to fame is victory in the 2001 Vanuatu Open, but he started thinking he may have a chance of winning the Thailand International Airways event after shooting a two-under 70 in the second round. A third-round 69 left him only two strokes behind leaders Barr and Harmeet Kahlon of India, but he went almost unnoticed. Lee kept his head with another 70 yesterday to force a play-off with Barr, who looked poised for his first Asian Tour victory. But the Singapore-based Barr drove into a flower bed in the play-off down the 18th hole, was given a free drop before going through the green and finishing with a bogey. Lee, meanwhile, played the hole like a seasoned pro for an easy par and the US$78,750 first prize. 'This will open doors for me and give me chances at European Tour events,' Lee said. Barr, who lost the 2003 Macau Open to Colin Montgomerie in a play-off, was upset he failed to get the job done again, despite winning US$54,000. 'I feel liked I played well enough. I hung in until the end. Play-offs can go any way,' said Barr, who finished with an even-par 72 for a nine-under total of 279. 'It's only about one thing [winning] and it's a shame to come up short. I'll just have to come back next time. Full credit to Richard, he's played very well this week.' Aussie Scott Strange, who had been in contention all week, was only one shot back in a tie for third with American Bryan Saltus, who shot the best round of the day - a four-under 68. Strange, on a high after winning the Myanmar Open, narrowly missed a putt on the last hole, which would have put him in the play-off. But what really hurt him was a one-stroke penalty when his ball moved as he was about to putt on the sixth hole. 'My ball moved a millimetre or two. I could tell as I putted the line had moved a little.' Strange told his playing partners immediately but it wasn't until the 14th hole that officials consulted Strange and hit him with the one-shot penalty. 'I have no idea why it moved,' he said. 'I thought I was a red-hot chance today. I had a three-putt on the 11th hole, which was just a brain explosion. Those little things add up in the end and they have today.' Kahlon could not get anything going and finished two strokes behind after a 74. 'I didn't hit the ball too well and missed a lot of fairways. I couldn't score as well as I needed to,' he said.