May 2019 | Asian Tour

The season so far: A compelling one with more magic to come


With the 2019 Asian Tour season reaching its turn, we look back at the players and events that have made the mid-year report a very compelling one.

Sentosa, Singapore, May 29: The first half of the 2019 Asian Tour season will be best remembered for thrusting the region’s best and promising players into the global spotlight.

A place where it all begins, the Asian Tour Qualifying School has always been the launchpad for aspiring golfers as they embark on their professional careers and chase their golfing dreams.

And it did not take long for the likes of rookies such as Zach Murray and Sadom Kaewkanjana to create ripples in the golfing world with their respective wins at the New Zealand Open and Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open in Bangladesh.

At the season-opening event in January, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond found his winning rhythm again when he outclassed a host of quality players including Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Davis Love III to lift the iconic SMBC Singapore Open trophy for his third Asian Tour title.

SINGAPORE- Jazz Janewattanananond of Thailand pictured with the winner’s trophy after the final round of the SMBC Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore.

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox then produced a dominant performance in the final match by beating Spain’s Adrian Otaegui 3&2 to lift the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth trophy the following month.

Like the unique formats of the popular ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth and New Zealand Open which have been a huge success, Murray also endeared himself to the crowd when he signaled his arrival on the biggest stage by becoming the third fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour in March.

Murray’s wire-to-wire victory, which saw him being crowned as the newest champion of the New Zealand Open was made even sweeter as it was his first professional win, achieved in what was only his third start on the Asian Tour.

Victory at the Maybank Championship in March was especially special for Australian Scott Hend as he cemented his status as the most successful international golfer on the Asian Tour when he claimed his 10th victory in Malaysia.

Hend’s play-off victory over Spain’s Nacho Elvira was his first in three years since he last won in 2016. The Australian also became the second player, following Thonghcai Jaidee in 2014, to surpass US$5million in career earnings, thanks to his victory in Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – Scott Hend of Australia celebrates with his caddie after he wins the play-off match against Nacho Elvira of Spain.

There was no lack of drama in March as Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher staged a remarkable comeback by firing three birdies in his closing four holes to win the Hero Indian Open.

Not to be outdone in the tale of rookies, young Thai talent Sadom surpassed Murray’s earlier feat by became the record fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour in his very first start at the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open.

BANGLADESH – Sadom Kaewkanjana celebrates after his winning putt at the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open.

Sadom secured his 2019 Asian Tour card in his first attempt at the Qualifying School and struck gold again with his first Tour victory and a second win as a professional after his maiden win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in February.

The Asian Tour headed to East Asia in May where an exciting run of events in China, Korea and Japan reignited the Order of Merit battle.

Finland’s Mikko Korhonen ensured his first play-off duel with France’s Benjamin Hebert would end in victory when he drained an eight-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole to defeat the Frenchman and win the Volvo China Open.

The 38th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship saw the trophy being retained on home soil again after Korea’s Taehee Lee edged Finland’s Janne Kaske to claim his first Asian Tour title.

Japan’s Yosuke Asaji then delivered the perfect mother’s day gift on the day that matters most when he held his nerve to win the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup in Chiba prefecture.

Beyond home comforts, the golfing world also began to take notice of South Africa’s Justin Harding and Jazz, who both elevated into the higher echelons of the game.

Harding continued to make waves even on the European Tour by winning the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in March and emerged as one of the surprise packages at The Masters Tournament. He finished tied for 12th to earn a return ticket to The Masters in 2020.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – Justin Harding of South Africa talks with caddie Alan Burns on the second green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

American Kurt Kitayama, who graduated from Qualifying School in 2018, also made big strides in the Middle East when he was crowned the Oman Open champion. It was his second European Tour title since winning the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open last December.

Jazz then took his prolific form to the Major stage when he finished in a creditable tied-14th place at the PGA Championship two weeks ago

That finish, which was also the best result by a Thai at the PGA Championship, moved him to a career-high 69th place on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Amidst the intense competition that provided all with a great spectacle the last five months, new heroes have emerged with records rewritten.

Hend holds a slim advantage over Jazz on the Asian Tour Order of Merit at this stage.

Slightly over US$50,000 separates the two but expect more twist and turns when the players return to action starting with the Kolon The 62nd KOREA Open Golf Championship next month.

After all, this is #whereitsAT.


This article was first published on PresidentsCup.com.

Diversity can be our strength, says International Team captain Ernie Els

May 30: The past couple of months have been really exciting for the International Team, with many of our potential players producing some wonderful golf and enjoying success worldwide.

In a span of six weeks, we witnessed three PGA TOUR wins by Canadian Corey Conners (Valero Texas Open), C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei (RBC Heritage) and Korea’s Sung Kang (AT&T Byron Nelson) which have improved their chances of qualifying for the International Team to face the United States Team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia from December 9-15.

Winning on the PGA TOUR is one of the ultimate dreams for every aspiring golfer and seeing how Corey, C.T and Sung Kang fought for their maiden wins in the U.S. was very impressive. More importantly, I was encouraged to hear all three players saying how determined they are in wanting to fight for their places in the Presidents Cup. Their enthusiasm will help generate a lot of positive buzz and energy in the team room, which is important.

I was pleased to see Sung Kang following up on his victory with a seventh-place finish at the PGA Championship while Adam Scott, who is one of our team’s stalwarts, finished tied-eighth. Another international player who has caught my attention recently is Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, whom I had the opportunity to play with in Malaysia recently. This kid has got talent and at Bethpage Black, he showed us what he can do with a solid tied-14th finish to move up to 12th in our team standings.

Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand

Though it may seem as if the world was introduced to Jazz last week, this 23-year-old has had his fair share of professional success after turning pro at age 15. He’s won three times on the Asian Tour and defeated a strong field at the Singapore Open this year. With the PGA being just his fourth PGA TOUR start, it was quite encouraging to see him perform so well under an enormous amount of pressure.

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate Brooks Koepka for his impressive victory at Bethpage Black. What he has accomplished in the past few years is nothing short of remarkable, and he is going to be a formidable opponent as part of the U.S. Team in December.

Currently, our top-eight players on the International Team points list consist of four established Presidents Cup team members in Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day while Cameron Smith, Haotong Li, Justin Harding and Abraham Ancer are in good position to book their maiden appearances, with qualifying concluding in mid-August. I’ll then have four captain’s picks to round up my 12-man team in early November following the PGA TOUR’s Asia swing.

We’ve already seen on numerous occasions what Cameron can do on the golf course and I’ve been impressed by Haotong and Justin as well following some eye-catching performances. Haotong, whom I played with when he shot that amazing 63 in the final round of The Open Championship in 2017, is tenacious and fiery when he gets into the ‘zone’ and he showed a lot of heart in finishing second to Dustin Johnson in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. We all saw how he backed it up with another strong showing at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play where he reached the round of 16 following outstanding group wins over two top players in Alex Noren and Brooks Koepka.

Justin Harding of South Africa

I’ve followed Justin’s progress very closely since he started playing on the Sunshine Tour and it’s been amazing to see his rise over the past 18 months where he has won five times in Asia, South Africa and on the European Tour. He is quite a fighter with a wonderful short game and he showed all those qualities with wins over Luke List and Matthew Fitzpatrick in  the Match Play before being stopped by Rory McIlroy.

It’s been really fun to see how his confidence and game have soared to new heights and Justin showed us at the  Masters Tournament that he can become a global player with an impressive tied-12th finish in his debut appearance. A career first PGA TOUR top-10 at the AT&T Byron Nelson has only cemented his growing reputation and I’d be the least surprised if he seals his ticket to Australia.

I was happy to see Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace reaching the round of 16 as well at the Match Play which will put our team in good stead when we face what will be a strong U.S. Team led by Tiger Woods.

Leading as team captain for the first time requires a lot of preparation and thoughts and I believe we had a fruitful week during the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Being the only official two-man team FedExCup tournament on TOUR, it allowed our players to bond closer and also try out some partnerships in the fourball and foursomes format.

Many of our guys opted to pair up with the likes of Jason Day partnering with Adam Scott, Louis teaming up with Charl Schwartzel, Justin playing with Branden, Abraham Ancer getting together with Jhonattan Vegas and Anirban Lahiri combining with Shubhankar Sharma.

We also stayed in the same hotel in New Orleans and enjoyed some fun team building sessions where the aim was to get the new guys familiarising with the more established players. As you know, our team is made up of golfers from different nationalities and cultures and it’s really important to gel as one team, hence the reason for our new International Team logo which incorporates the respective players’ national flags.

I also liked what my friend, Trevor Immelman said during our press conference together at the Zurich Classic where we teamed up. He believes our team’s diversity can be our strength which I fully agree. This is something we will continue to harness in the coming months as part of our plans to wrest the Presidents Cup from the U.S.

Speaking of Trevor, I’m delighted and honoured that he, along with Mike Weir and K.J. Choi,  have agreed to be my captain’s assistants, joining Geoff Ogilvy who we announced in November at the World Cup of Golf. I have played alongside the three guys in numerous Presidents Cups and tournaments around the world and I know they have the same passion, drive and determination to create a winning formula for our team. All of them still compete regularly on the PGA TOUR and I believe their relationships with our International players will be an asset to our team.

On a personal note, I was over the moon to become the first golfer to register 300 career top-10s since the introduction of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986 following my tied-seventh finish at the Maybank Championship. Admittedly, my last three or four years have been a struggle, so I was really happy I played some good golf in Malaysia.

Another player who also played some good golf recently was Tiger and I want to congratulate him for his sensational victory at the Masters Tournament. What he did at Augusta National was amazing and I could not be happier for him knowing what he has been through in recent years following his battles with back injuries. However when we meet at Royal Melbourne in December, I’ll be doing my best to outwit him.

I hear that ticket sales for the Presidents Cup has been very good and if you are an international golf or sports fan living in Melbourne or anywhere close to Australia, do make sure you buy your tickets now on www.presidentscup.com and cheer us on at Royal Melbourne! Bye for now.


Very often in golf, a hero will emerge. He rises from near oblivion to become the next great hope in the sport with his name moving beyond just a byword to a feature in the headlines.

But before enjoying their sweet taste of success, it is always a crazy and insecure journey to finding where their unsure talent would eventually take them.

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond is one of them. But after his exploits at the recent PGA Championship, the young Thai is now finding himself basking in the limelight.

Here are 10 things you should know about the three-time Asian Tour winner, who has been orchestrating all the right moves lately.

  1. Jazz is currently in second place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings, his previous highest Order of Merit ranking was ninth position (2017, 2018).
  2. He is coached by Pete Cowen who also works with Thailand’s number one player, Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
  3. His real name is Atiwit but he switched to his nickname Jazz which was given by his father, a judge, due to the latter’s musical preference. His last name is pronounced “JANE-wat-tan-NA-non”.
  4. Jazz is one of two siblings. His younger sister, Jiratcha Janewattananond is currently in Medical School in Thailand.
  5. Jazz first played his way into the history books of the Asian Tour in 2010 when he became the youngest ever player, at the age of 14 years and 71 days, to make the halfway cut at the 2010 Asian Tour International in Bangkok.
  6. Jazz played for the Thai National Team for two years when he was just 12 years old.
  7. He found inner peace after a two-week stint as a monk in Thailand in 2016. Jazz credited the time spent in the temple for playing a pivotal role in his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open in 2017.
  8. The Thai broke into the world’s top-100 for the first time in his career after claiming his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening Singapore Open. That victory earned him a coveted spot in The Open, where he made his Major debut last year.
  9. He made his second Major appearance at the PGA Championship where he enjoyed the best result by a Thai player at that Major with his tied-14th result. The record was previously held by countryman Prayad Marksaeng who took a tied-15th result in 2008.
  10. Jazz is currently ranked first in Relation-To-Par statistics on Tour at 75-under after 25 counted rounds.

Sentosa, Singapore, May 27: Filipino star Angelo Que rounded off a commendable campaign at the Kansai Open Golf Championship after marking his best efforts of the week with a closing seven-under-par 65 to finish in a share of fourth place on Sunday.

Que, who started the round with a seven-shot deficit, returned with a flawless card highlighted by seven birdies, including five for a front-nine 31, to end his campaign with a 15-under-par 273 total at the KOMA Golf Club in Nara.

The 40-year-old Que, a three-time Asian Tour champion, would finish four shots back of eventual winner Tomoharu Otsuki of Japan, who defeated compatriot Rikuya Hoshino on the fourth extra hole to claim his first ever title since turning professional nine years ago.

Que broke through on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) when he won the Top Cup Tokai Classic last October, four years since he started plying his trade in Japan. That victory also ended an eight-year title drought for Que, a proud father of two.

Rising Thai star Jazz Janewattananond signed for a 71 to settle for a tied-25th place finish at the Kansai Open. The 23-year-old Jazz would slip one spot to 70th position on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) following his outing in Japan.

Over at the Made in Denmark presented by FREJA, American John Catlin marked his best outing in 14 starts on the European Tour with a tied-12th place finish, thanks to a closing five-under-par 66 at the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort.

The 28-year-old Catlin, who enjoyed a breakout season on the Asian Tour in 2018 thanks to three victories, settled seven shots back of winner Bernd Wiesberger after compiling a four-day total of seven-under-par 277.

India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia would return with a sizzling 65 to finish two shots back of Catlin in tied-18th position while Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee grabbed a share of 33rd place following a solid 66.

American Kevin Na claimed his third PGA TOUR title in style at the Charles Schwab Challenge after closing with a four-under-par 66 to win by four shots. The former Asian Tour winner gave a restored 1973 Dodge Challenger, which is the reward for the winner, to his caddy Kenny Harms right after his winning putt fell.

Kevin Na of the United States with his wife, Jullianne Na, and daughter, Sophie Na.

A total of 33 players, including a handful of Asian Tour members, are vying for the three coveted spots on offer for the upcoming U.S. Open at the Sectional Qualifying in Japan on Monday. The 36-hole event is held at the Kuwana Country Club in Mie Prefecture.

Asian Tour members in the field include Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who sits in second place on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, Maverick Antcliff of Australia, Zimbabwean Scott Vincent, Filipino ace Angelo Que, as well as Thailand’s Danthai Boonma, Poom Saksansin and Sadom Kaewkanjana.

Ends.

 



Bethpage, New York, May 20: Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond enjoyed the best result by a Thai player at the PGA Championship after closing with a seven-over-par 77 on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Jazz took a commendable tied-14th finish after marking his card with one double bogey, six bogeys and a birdie to compile a four-day total of two-over-par 282 at the challenging Bethpage Black course.

American Brooks Koepka went wire-to-wire to successfully defend his title with a 74 which propelled him to the number one spot on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished in tied-41st following a 75 while South Africa’s Justin Harding took tied-54th after carding a 72.

American’s Kurt Kitayama (72) and David Lipsky (71) ended their campaigns in tied-64th and tied-71st respectively.

Ends.


Bethpage, New York, May 19: Rising star Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand continued to exceed his own expectations as he signed for a three-under-par 67 to move into a share of second place following the penultimate round of the PGA Championship on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Jazz, a three-time Asian Tour winner, fired five birdies against two bogeys to trail leader Brooks Koepka by seven shots with a three-day total of five-under-par 205 at the Bethpage Black course.

Jazz, who thought he would struggle to break 80 after seeing the course on Monday, surprised himself by capping three rounds no worse than par in his debut appearance at the PGA Championship, which is also his second Major tournament.

“It was raining when I arrived here on Monday and it was raining on Tuesday as well. The course was playing so tough because the rough was so long. I was having a nightmare. How am I going to play this golf course? I’m not going to break 80. But this (to move into a share of second place) has exceeded my expectations already,” said Jazz.

Jazz, placed 72nd on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and second on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, got off to a fast start with three birdies in his first six holes before curling in a tricky 13-foot birdie putt on the 10th.

Despite dropping two shots on 14 and 17, Jazz recovered brilliantly with a closing birdie on the par-four 18th, where he found the green in two before rolling in a nine-footer.

“This is my first time on the East Coast, and it’s next level. It’s so different. I love it. People keep shouting love you. They love me here,” added Jazz, who got into contention with Jack Miller, a frozen foods manager at a local grocery store, on his bag.

Jazz became the youngest player to make the halfway cut on the Asian Tour when he was still an amateur at the age of 14. He lost his Asian Tour card for the first time in his career after finishing outside of top-60 on the Order of Merit in 2016.

The young Thai, however, went for a two-week stint as a monk when he turned 21 years old that December and returned to claim his first Asian Tour victory in Bangladesh two months later. Jazz has added two more victories since and made his Major debut at The Open last July.

Jazz, who will play alongside American Luke List in the second last group on Sunday, is expected to break into the top-50 in the world if he finishes fourth or better at the PGA Championship. A solo fifth place finish will get him close.

Ends.

 


By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional

 

Last week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black proved to be as demanding as expected, with only six players finishing the week in red figures.

Brooks Koepka dominated the field for three days before eventually running into trouble on the back-nine Sunday afternoon. The American escaped a late charge by Dustin Johnson to win by two shots on eight-under-par 272 for his fourth Major Championship win since the 2017 U.S. Open.

That victory returns Koepka to world number one on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), a position he last held at the end of 2018.

 

Jazz Janewattananond, a three-time Asian Tour winner, enjoyed his best Major performance to date by finishing in a creditable tie for 14th position in his first Major on U.S. soil with a 282 total.

That finish, which was also the best result by a Thai at the PGA Championship, moved him to a career-high 69th place on the OWGR, up three spots from number 72 last week.

Playing in the second-to-last group in the final round after starting with rounds of 70-68-67 and with seven holes remaining in the championship, it was looking like it could have been even better for the young Thai.

Grinding out a score of even-par for the day through the first 11 holes and five-under-par total, Jazz was at that point in solo-third place behind Koepka and Johnson, a position that would have guaranteed him starts in the upcoming U.S. Open and next year’s Masters Tournament.

The long demanding back-nine proved extremely difficult for all players on Sunday, especially those with late tee-times because of the strong and gusty afternoon wind.

Of all the players in the last 10 groups, not a single player broke par from holes 10 to 18, the best was Eric Van Rooyen’s even-par 35 with the average score among the group being 38.10.

Jazz was one of the many players that struggled with the wind and thick rough on the homeward nine, and after a rough stretch from holes 12 to 17, he finished with a par on 18 to settle for a final round score of seven-over-par 77.

He now has three more weeks to break into the top-60 on the OWGR to earn himself an exemption to the U.S. Open without having to qualify and is scheduled to play at the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) this week.

 

Former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished tied-41st after shooting a final round 75 on a brutal day at Bethpage Black. Only 11 players managed to break par on a day where the average score was 73.44.

Kiradech remains at number 41 this week and is exempt for the final two Majors of the season, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links June 13-16 and The Open Championship at Royal Portrush July 18-21.

 

Playing in his second consecutive PGA Championship, Justin Harding finished the week in a tie for 54th place on 289 total after rounds of 74-70-73-72 and slides three spots down to number 45 on the OWGR.

By remaining inside the top-50 at the conclusion of PGA Championship week, he has secured exemptions to the U.S. Open and the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio May 30- June 2.

 

Kurt Kitayama made the cut in his first career Major by shooting a solid 68 in his second round after a slow start with 74 in the first round. However he fell back over the weekend after carding rounds of 77-72.

A four-day total of 291 for the week meant he finished in tied-64th place and remains at number 108 on the OWGR.

 

David Lipsky was playing in his first PGA Championship and finished in a tie for 71st place after carding rounds of 70-74-77-71 for a 292 total. The 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner maintains his previous OWGR position at 118.

 

Playing in his first Major on U.S. soil, South African Shaun Norris missed the cut by three shots after posting scores of 73-74 and slides four places in the rankings from 99 last week to 102 on the updated list.


 

By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional 

This week’s PGA Championship will be held at the Bethpage Black Course on Long Island, New York, a publicly owned course which hosted the U.S. Open in 2002. It was the first public course to host the U.S. Open then.

At 7,459 yards and par-70, it is known to be one of the toughest tests in Major Championship golf and it famously has a disclaimer by the clubhouse stating: “Warning. The Black is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers”.

This week the Black will definitely see a field full of highly skilled golfers, and while the 3 ½ to 4 inch rough may not be as high and thick as during a U.S. Open, it will still be quite a challenge for the world’s best golfers. The fairways are expected to be cut to similar widths as at the 2009 U.S. Open, and finding them will be very important.

So how difficult is the course going to play? It is a fact that in the two U.S. Open Championships played at Bethpage Black, in 2002 and 2009, it played as the most difficult course on the respective PGATOUR seasons in relation to par.

In the two FedEx Cup play-off events held at the Black in 2012 and 2016 it was the 16th and 12th hardest, much of the easier scoring thanks to the course being played as par-71 instead of par-70 as at the U.S. Opens.

The main challenge of this course is said to be tee-to-green, since the greens are relatively flat with gentle slopes. The players will also want to avoid the deep greenside bunkers that saw a below 50% sand-save percentage last time a FedEx Cup play-off event was held here in 2016.

The general opinion is that this course heavily favors the longest hitters, and this may be even more true this year with the event played quite early in the season for the U.S. northeast. If the conditions remain soft as expected, the course will play to its full length.

The weather forecast is for temperatures ranging between 10-20*C, with showers and gusty winds forecast for Thursday morning.

Tiger Woods of the United States

My two star-player picks and why:

There is no doubt that Tiger Woods will be one of the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this Sunday following his epic comeback win at the Masters Tournament last month.

Having finished second to Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship, Woods has been first, second and tied-sixth in his last three Majors played.

He won the U.S. Open here in 2002 when he was the only player under par at the end of the week, winning on a score of three-under-par 277 to beat Phil Mickelson by three shots.

In the 2009 edition of the event Woods finished in a tie for sixth-place, four shots behind the winner Lucas Glover.

Woods currently leads the PGATOUR in GIR percentage with 75.56%, which bodes well for a course that requires pin-point play tee-to-green. The only time in his career he has had a higher percentage than this was in 2000, a season in which he won nine events and three Majors.

The current world number six also has a chance to reclaim the OWGR number one ranking he has not held since early 2013. If he wins and Dustin Johnson finishes outside the top-10, and Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka do not finish second, Woods will again become number one in the world. A feat that seemed impossible not too long ago.

The defending champion Brooks Koepka has won three Majors since the 2017 U.S. Open and was tied-second to Woods at Augusta recently, reversing their positions from the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri in August last year.

With his current form and recent Major record, he should perhaps be considered the number one man to beat this week.

Since the 2016 PGA Championship Koepka is a massively impressive 55-under-par in Majors, a full 15 shots better than the next player on the list. In that span of Majors, Koepka has won three times (two U.S. Open Championships and one PGA Championship) and no missed cuts.

The years he spent playing the European Tour, in what can be sometimes very trying weather conditions, means he should be ready for whatever weather the late Long Island spring will throw at him.

With a morning tee-time on Thursday, and the weather forecast as of today, coping with cool temperatures, rain and wind in the first round might prove to be extremely important.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand

Asian Tour Players in the field:

This week we have an impressive six Asian Tour players in the field, all making it into the event by their OWGR rankings.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is mostly playing PGATOUR these days and the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion is coming off a tied-fifth finish in last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, his second top-five finish of the year following a tied-third at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

A very popular figure on the U.S. Tour, he might well have very good backing from the notoriously rowdy and harsh New York sports-fans. A factor not to be underestimated this week.

Kiradech should be long enough of the tee to contend this week, but his Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green rank of 168th on the PGATOUR this season is perhaps a bit worrying.

However, his rank in Strokes Gained: Putting is near top of the class, and he currently sits at number three so far this season.

Justin Harding has since his win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters been playing almost exclusively in the U.S., and like Kiradech had a good finish in Dallas last week finishing tied-tenth.

With a tied 12th finish at the Masters Tournament last month he is a proven Major Championship contender, and his playing record since the start of 2018 until now is extremely impressive.

Already known among his South African peers as a great putter, he is currently ranked number one in Strokes Gained: Putting in the 2019 PGATOUR season. On a long demanding course with punishing rough, hitting the fairways will play a big part in who comes out on top this week. In addition to his impressive putting statistics above, Harding is ranked number five in Total Driving, and sixth in Driving Accuracy.

Jazz Janewattanond has perhaps been the breakout star of the 2019 Asian Tour season, although it must be said that his ascent to the top-ranks of the game started in 2018.

Since late May last year, Jazz has racked up an impressive 15 top-10’s (11 of them top 5’s) in his last 30 events played, including two wins at the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open and the 2018 Queen’s Cup Presented by Bangchak.

This will be Jazz’s second career Major Championship following his debut at last year’s Open Championship and going by course reputation will be a totally different challenge compared to Carnoustie last year.

With a very solid all-round game, Jazz will be looking to make a big impact on the world stage at the year’s second Major.

Shaun Norris had a great 2018 season with a total of 12 top-10’s worldwide, including a win at the JGTO HEIWA PGM CHAMPIONSHIP in early November, a second at the Japan Open Championship and tied-second at the SMBC Singapore Open.

He finished second on the 2018 JGTO Money Rankings, having earned JPY103,942,450 or roughly US$950,000.

This will be Norris’s third Major but first on U.S. soil, having previously made the cuts at The Open Championship in 2017 and 2018.

A naturally big and strong player, Norris may be able to handle the thick rough should he miss the fairways at Bethpage Black this week.

Kurt Kitayama has added a couple of victories to his resume since late last year, winning the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open last December, and the Oman Open this March.

Known as one of the longest drivers on the Asian and European Tours, the course might suit Kitayama’s game just fine.

This will be Kitayama’s first career Major Championship.

David Lipsky is enjoying a very solid stretch of tournaments since his win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last December, coming off consecutive top-5’s in his last two events to go along with a tied-10th at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Playing in his third Major Championship and first in the U.S., Lipsky will be looking to improve on his current best Major performance of a tied-58th finish in The Open Championship in 2015.

 

Asian Tour members and notables’ tee-times:

7:07 AM              Brandt Snedeker                             Kiradech Aphibarnrat                    Max Homa

7:18 AM              Henrik Stenson                                David Lipsky                                     Richard Sterne

7:29 AM              Mike Lorenzo-Vera                         Justin Harding                                  Sam Ryder

8:13 AM              Lee Westwood                                 Shaun Norris                                    Charles Howell III

8:24 AM              Brooks Koepka                                 Francesco Molinari                         Tiger Woods

1:38 PM               Rory McIlroy                                     Phil Mickelson                                          Jason Day

2:11 PM               Jazz Janewattananond                Tyler Hall                                            Michael Kim

2:22 PM               Dylan Frittelli                                    Andrew Filbert                                 Kurt Kitayama

 

Tournament Facts:

Prize money: TBA (US$11 million in 2018). Winner’s share: TBA (US$1.98 million in 2018).

Defending champion: Brooks Koepka

Previous Majors at Bethpage Black:

Year                     Date                  Tournament                  Winner                           Score                  To par  

2002                     Jun 13–16           U.S. Open                           Tiger Woods                      277                        −3

2009                     Jun 18–22           U.S. Open                          Lucas Glover                     276                        −4


Bethpage, New York, May 18: Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond continued his remarkable debut at the PGA Championship by signing for a second round two-under-par 68 to take a share of 10th place on Friday.

Jazz, who is playing on a special exemption at the year’s second Major, showed no signs of nerve as he took on the world’s best players at the demanding Bethpage Black course.

After opening with a 70, the three-time Asian Tour winner, resumed his charge by marking his card with three birdies and a bogey for a two-day total of two-under-par 138, 10 shots back of American history-maker, Brooks Koepka, who recorded the lowest 36-hole score in a Major championship after he signed for a 65.

“I didn’t feel any pressure on the golf course. I love it (playing here). It’s my first time playing in such a crowd and hearing them shout my name. I don’t know how to react to it. They give me some really funny names but I try not to remember it,”said Jazz.

While he may only be playing at Bethpage Black for the first time, Jazz is already putting his limited knowledge of the course to good use.

“If you’re in the rough here, you just got to take your medicine. You’ve to try to get it back to the fairways with a short iron. You have to be patient and try your best not to get a bogey. That’s all I need to know,” said Jazz.

American Kurt Kitayama, a one-time Asian Tour winner, safely made it into the weekend rounds after returning with a 68 to take a share of 47th place.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, together with 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, David Lipsky and South Africa’s Justin Harding are also through after they made the cut which was set at four-over par.

South Africa’s Shaun Norris meanwhile made the early exit after posting rounds of 73 and 74.

Ends.

ROUND ONE REPORT

 

Bethpage, New York, May 17: Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond opened his campaign with an even-par 70 to trail defending champion American Brooks Koepka by seven shots in the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Thai, playing on a special exemption on the PGA TOUR this week, took a share of 17th place along with American David Lipsky, who matched Jazz’s opening day efforts at the challenging Bethpage Black course.

Jazz, a three-time Asian Tour winner, traded three birdies against as many bogeys to finish two shots ahead of reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods (72) who sits in tied-51st.

Koepka, who is looking to become first player to successfully defend a PGA title since Woods did in 2007, set the course record with his spectacular bogey-free round of 63.

South Africa’s Shaun Norris posted a 73 to take tied-74th place while countryman Justin Harding sits in tied-91st alongside American Kurt Kitayama on matching 74s.

Thailand’s number one player Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who is making his sixth appearance at this week’s Major, struggled to a 76 to take tied-123rd place.

Ends.

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