Kuching, Sarawak, July 31: Rising star Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand will headline the US$300,000 Sarawak Championship when the event returns to the Asian Tour for its second straight edition from August 15 to 18.
Jazz, who leads the Order of Merit with his current haul of US$738,093, came in joint runner-up last year after firing a birdie and an eagle in his closing three holes for a solid eight-under-par 64 to finish one shot shy of winner John Catlin of the United States.
Having already bagged two Asian Tour titles this season, the 23-year-old Thai is looking to ride on his soaring confidence as he challenges for the title again at the Arnold Palmer-designed Damai Golf and Country Club located in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.
“I remember Sarawak being a very nice place. There’s a beautiful beach there and I enjoyed playing that course last year. I had great fun competing for the title with my friends that week too and although I didn’t win the tournament, I was happy that I finished strong to give myself a chance,” said Jazz.
Jazz marked the start of his epic rise when he completed an amazing career turnaround with his breakthrough title in Bangladesh two years ago. That win was especially sweet for the Thai as it came shortly after losing his Tour card for the first time in his career. Jazz would later go on to claim his second title on home soil in 2018.
Jazz continued his remarkable rise by breaking into the world’s top-100 after winning his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open in January. He would notch three other top-10 results before securing his fourth victory at the Kolon Korea Open last month.
The fast-emerging Asian Tour star rose to a career-high 52nd place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) following his win in Korea but slipped to his current 53rd position after missing the halfway cut in his second attempt at The Open a fortnight ago.
Earlier in May, Jazz also served notice of his immense talent when he came in tied-14th in what was his debut appearance at the PGA Championship. It was the best-ever result by a Thai player in that Major tournament.
“I am currently back in Hua Hin, enjoying a few weeks off with my friends and family before heading to Sarawak. The Sarawak Championship will be the start of another busy stretch for me. Hopefully I can kickstart that stretch with a good result in Sarawak,” Jazz added.
Jazz, arguably the hottest player on the Asian Tour this season, is currently in the running to automatically qualify for the International Team for the Presidents cup. He is also chasing to lift the Merit crowns on both the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour at the end of the season.
Supported by the Sarawak State government, the Sarawak Championship will see a total of 150 players from 22 countries vying for top honours at the full-field Asian Tour event, which will be the Tour’s second stop in Malaysia this season.
Other notable players in the talented field are Micah Lauren Shin of the United States, India’s Khalin Joshi, Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei, as well as Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana and Tirawat Kaewsiribandit.
July 29, Singapore: The widely heralded SMBC Singapore Open will be contested from January 16 to 19 next year and will once again be jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
Rising star Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand held off challenges from England duo Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick and Yoshinori Fujimoto of Japan to clinch the title earlier this year.
The 2020 SMBC Singapore Open will return to the award winning Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club – the tournament’s home since 2005 – and offer total prize money of US$1 million.
“We are delighted to announce that the SMBC Singapore Open will return next year in what are now the traditional mid-January dates,” said Ross Tan, President of the Singapore Golf Association.
Since its return in 2016 the SMBC Singapore Open has been won by Younghan Song of South Korea, who pipped then number one Jordan Spieth of the United States by a stroke in 2016, golden oldie Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand – whose victory came just days ahead of his 51st birthday in January 2017 – and Spanish maestro Sergio Garcia, who arrived at Sentosa in 2018 as the Masters champion.
July 29: Thailand’s Poom Saksansin finished in a share of 58th position amongst 63 elite golfers at the US$10.25 million World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational and left Memphis knowing where his game needs to be to compete at the highest level.
The 26-year-old signed for a closing four-over 74 at TPC Southwind on Sunday and his four-day total of 10-over 290 was good enough to beat four PGA TOUR winners in Sung Kang of Korea and the American trio of Keegan Bradley, Max Homa and Kevin Tway.
Poom said: “It was nice, a good experience at a big event. I was struggling with my driver before arriving but I managed to get it to work and hit it a lot better than the past few weeks. Hopefully this will help build my confidence.”
Brooks Koepka, the current FedExCup No. 1 and World No. 1, captured his third title of the 2018-19 PGA TOUR Season by three shots after closing with a 65 and the baby-faced Poom, a three-time Asian Tour winner, was under no illusion of the fact that he needs to raise his game up a few notches if he hopes to go toe-to-toe with the best players in the world.
Power is something which Poom realises he needs to generate after he ended the week some 40 yards shorter than Koepka in the average driving distance category. Poom clocked in an average 267.4 yards from off the tee while Koepka registered 308.4 yards during a successful week which saw him claim the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 bonus prize of US$2 million after achieving an unassailable lead in the points list.
With one regular season event remaining before the start of the FedExCup Playoffs, Koepka is also in prime position to lift the prestigious FedExCup and bag a whopping US$15 million in bonus pay out.
“Watching Brooks hit driver is like watching another step up of playing golf. He’s got all the muscles,” said Poom. “I know I have to improve on my distance and I have to be better with my confidence too. The result is not good for me but if I look at my main problem, it was just a few things.”
He said he truly enjoyed his week in the historic city of Memphis, which is the birthplace of Blues, Soul and Rock ‘n Roll. Poom also got to sample the city’s famous BBQs. “I have a friend who is studying here, and he had a lot of good food recommendations. I enjoyed some BBQ,” added Poom, who will take a three-week break before resuming action on the Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour.
July 29: South Africa’s Justin Harding did not have the finish he wished for at the World Golf Championship – FedEx St Jude Invitational as he signed for a disappointing four-over-par 74 to end his campaign in tied-43rd place on Sunday.
The 33-year-old Harding, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour in 2018, had started the day trailing by eight shots in tied-18th position, thanks to a superb third-round 64 at TPC Southwind.
Harding, however, struggled to continue his hot form as he slipped down the leaderboard after marking his card with five bogeys against a birdie to finish 16 shots back of winner Brooks Koepka on even-par 280.
Japan’s Kodai Ichihara battled to a 70 to finish in tied-55th place on 286 while compatriot Mikumu Horikawa and Thailand’s Poom Saksansin settled for shares of 58th place on 290 following respective rounds of 72 and 74.
Overseas Watch: Harding surges with brilliant 64 at WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
July 28: South Africa’s Justin Harding marked his best round so far by firing a bogey-free six-under-par 64 to move 29 spots up to a share of 18th place at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational on Saturday.
The two-time Asian Tour winner posted rounds of 72,70 and 64 for a three-day total of four-under-par 206 to remain eight shots back of Rory McIlroy, who leads the third round after a sensational 62 at the TPC Southwind.
Thailand’s Poom Saksansin and Japan’s Kodai Ichihara both returned with matching 75s to take a share of 56th in the penultimate round of the WGC event.
Japan’s Mikumu Horikawa posted a 66 to remain in 61st place.
July 27: Japan’s Kodai Ichihara bettered his opening round efforts by carding an even-par 70 to move nine places up the leaderboard to take a share of 36th place after the second round of the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational on Friday.
The Japanese, who carded a 71 in his first round at the WGC event, is among the 11 players that includes Thailand’s Poom Saksansin bunched in 36th place after compiling a two-day total of one-over-par 141.
He is 10 shots back of English leader Matthew Fritzpatrick who takes pole position after carding rounds of 67 and 64
Saksansin slipped after mixing his card with four bogeys, a double-bogey and three birdies for a 73 while South Africa’s Justin Harding signed for a 70 to take tied-47th place.
Japan’s Mikumu Horikawa returned with a 77 for a share of 61st place.
Overseas Watch: Poom’s off to an encouraging start at WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
July 26: Thailand’s Poom Saksansin got his campaign at the World Golf Championships- FedEx St Jude Invitational off to an encouraging start after he posted a first round two-under-par 68 on Thursday.
The three-time Asian Tour winner, who earned his place at the WGC event after winning the Indonesian Masters last year, mixed his card with three birdies and one bogey to take a share of 18th place and trail Spanish leader Jon Rahm by shots back.
Japan’s Kodai Ichihara, who qualified for the event after winning the 2018 Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour, opened with a 71 to stay nine shots off the lead in tied-45th place.
South Africa’s Justin Harding posted a 72 for a tied-47th place while Japan’s Mikumu Horikawa returned with a 75 for 60th place after day one at the TPC Southwind.
July 24: After embarking on different journeys to the world stage following their successes in Indonesia, South African Justin Harding and Thailand’s Poom Saksansin are set to spearhead the Asian Tour challenge when they tee off for the World Golf Championships – FedEx St Jude Invitational on Thursday.
Poom, a three-time Asian Tour winner, lifted the Indonesian Masters trophy for the second time in three years last December and became the second player after Lee Westwood (2011, 2012 and 2015) to win the event more than once.
Thanks to his victory at the 2018 Indonesian Masters, which is the flagship event of the Asian Tour, the 26-year-old Poom earned a start at the WGC – FedEx St Jude Invitational which will be held at TPC Southwind this week. It will be his second appearance in a WGC event.
Poom put on a solid display of golf to fend off the challenges from his more illustrious rivals at the Indonesian showpiece, where he closed with a four-under-par 68 to win by three shots with a four-day total of 20-under-par 268.
It was a class act by Poom as he showed that he would not be cowed into submission against an elite field which included marquee players Rose and Henrik Stenson, who were ranked number one and 27th respectively on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) then.
Like Poom, Harding also claimed his maiden Asian Tour victory in Indonesia. He signaled his arrival in Asia by winning the 2018 Indonesia Open where he played on a sponsor’s invitation. It was his first ever start in Asia.
Harding qualified for WGC – FedEx St Jude Invitational by virtue of being inside top-50 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) prior to the first qualifying cut-off date on July 15.
Harding’s career has been on a rapid rise since his breakthrough in Indonesia 12 months ago. He broke into the world’s top-100 for the first time in his career after claiming his second straight win at the Royal Cup in Thailand.
The 33-year-old Harding went on to notch four top-10 finishes before ending his rookie season in third place on the 2018 Order of Merit. He took his career up another level earlier in March when he secured his first victory on the European Tour at the Qatar Masters.
He followed up that victory with a runner-up finish at the Kenya Open the week after and broke into the world’s top-50 where he later qualified for The Masters. Harding continued to gain prominence by putting up a superb showing to finish tied-12th in what was his Augusta debut.
Indonesia has long been one of the key markets of the Asian Tour. Events such as the Indonesian Masters and the Indonesia Open have grown from strength to strength over the years, providing players from not just within the region but across the globe with numerous opportunities to rise onto the world stage.
Poom and Harding will feature in the elite field at the WGC – FedEx St Jude Invitational alongside two other Asian Tour members Mikumu Horikawa and Kodai Ichihara, who earned their starts following respective wins at the 2019 JGTC Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills and 2018 Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour.
July 23: The golf world may not be too familiar with Poom Saksansin but PGA TOUR stars Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson certainly know all about the baby-faced Thai golfer nicknamed the “Assassin”.
The 26-year-old Poom will tee up in the US$10.25 million World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind starting on Thursday with every intention of upstaging the stars in Memphis, a historical city known as the home of Blues, Soul, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Poom earned his place in the elite field after winning the BNI Indonesian Masters in December for his third Asian Tour title. While his recent form has been off key and causing him to sing the blues, the likeable Thai is determined to make the most of his second WGC appearance.
“Playing in this big event is a big opportunity for me, especially when the prize money is high and the field is very strong,” said Poom with the help of a translator.
Last year, Poom stood out as a hero for Team Asia in their defeat to Team Europe at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia. He first partnered Korea’s Sung Kang, who is also in the field this week, to defeat Stenson and Frenchman Alex Levy 5 & 4 in the fourball format and then stunned Casey 1-up in the singles.
“We need to rename him ‘Assassin’ instead of Saksansin,” joked Stenson, who is a six-time PGA TOUR winner including the 2007 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Poom’s victory was especially sweet as he grew up idolising Stenson.
Casey, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, recalls his encounter against the Thai. “He flatly beat me …. putted brilliantly and dusted me off at the last. And I was playing very nicely that week. I was trying to get a clean sweep of points. But that just shows how good he is, and I’m a good match play player,” said the Englishman.
Poom, who finished a commendable T24 in the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, knows he needs to regain some semblance of his best form after hitting a road bump recently, thanks to a misbehaving driver.
“My form is not on track at the moment but I’m doing everything I can to improve my game. I need my driver to work again,” said Poom, who has hit 54% of fairways on the Japan Tour and 64% on the Asian Tour this season.
“For me, WGC is big event. As there is no (halfway) cut, there will be less pressure, so it should be a good time to perform. I’m hoping to have a good time in Memphis,” added the Thai, who is currently ranked 249th in the world after starting the year at 140th position.
While countrymen Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the first Thai to play full-time on the PGA TOUR, and Jazz Janewattananond have emerged as the country’s leading golfers in recent times, Poom is keen to get into the act and take his game onto the big stage on a regular basis.
“Kiradech is showing Thai golfers can get to the PGA TOUR and he’s inspiring the kids,” said Poom, who is the lone Thai representative in the field this week.
He learned to play the game at the age of 10 and started beating his father regularly when he was 12. Poom represented Thailand and helped the team win the gold medal in the regional Southeast Asian Games in 2011 and 2013 before turning professional.
Poom harboured dreams of playing collegiate golf in the U.S. but failed the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). “I got straight A’s in most of my studies but not English. I would sleep in that class,” he said with a laugh.
With the opportunity to show what he is capable of doing this week, Poom is looking forward to playing in front of the Memphis fans. “When I watch golf on TV, I love the fans. It is exciting for golfers when there are big crowds. I want to be playing in front of big crowds all the time if I can,” said Poom.
Sentosa, Singapore, July 23: Korea’s Sanghyun Park moved up eight rungs to 11th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit following his fine performance at The 148th Open, where 50% of the prize money earned by members were counted towards the money list.
A two-time Asian Tour winner in 2018, Park showed great resilience under testing conditions at Royal Portrush en-route to capping a tied-16th place finish in what is his second straight appearance at the year’s fourth and final Major.
The 36-year-old Park, who was named the 2018 Rookie of the Year after ending his season in second place on the Merit rankings, recorded rounds of 69, 72, 68 and 73 to settle for a two-under-par 282 total, some 13 shots back of winner Shane Lowry of Ireland.
Park secured his place at golf’s original championship for the second time after finishing in a tie for third place at the Mizuno Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series and held on the Japan Golf Tour in June.
Park, who enjoyed a fourth-place finish at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open on home soil in April, took home a prize purse of US$126,312 after emerging as the best-placed Asian player at The 148th Open.
“I’m delighted to have made Asia and Korea proud. It was not easy playing under such wet and windy conditions as we are generally not used to that. But I managed to hang in there all week and I’m glad my efforts paid off,” said Park.
A total of five Asian Tour members made their Open debuts last week and Japan’s Yosuke Asaji was the only one to make the halfway cut. He signed for a closing 76 to end his campaign in tied-67th position, which earned him US$25,087.
The result also moved him up one spot on the Order of Merit, where he sits in third place with a current haul of US$285,181. The 26-year-old Japanese had claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Asia-Pacific Open Diamond Cup held on home soil in May.
Despite missing the halfway cut for the second straight year at The Open, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond continued to dominate the Merit rankings as he leads by more than US$200,000 over second-placed Scott Hend of Australia.
Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 21: Korea’s Sanghyun Park took home the honours of being the best-placed Asian player after posting a final round two-over-par 73 to sign off from The 148th Open in tied-16th place on Sunday.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry swept aside all his closest rivals by closing with a 72 to lift his first Major title in front of the thousands of adoring Irish fans at Royal Portrush.
“It was amazing. It’s just hard to believe. I think there were a lot of people from where I’m from, I spotted a few people in the crowd, and I think a lot of people made the last-minute journey up here this morning because I was leading. And it was just was great out there today.
“Portrush have just been incredible. Obviously I’ve had success here in the past in amateur events. But to be able to win and celebrate with local people is obviously very nice,” said Lowry.
Lowry’s winning total of 15-under-par 269 saw him edge out England’s Tommy Fleetwood by a commanding six-shot after the Englishman posted a 74 to finish outright second.
Tony Finau of the United States closed with a 71 to take third place while world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States and England’s Lee Westwood shared fourth place with their 278 total.
Park, who finished second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2018, capped a memorable week at Royal Portrush as he surpassed the likes of Major champions such as Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth with his final position on the leaderboard.
Starting the day tied for 19th place, the Korean traded two bogeys and a birdie on a cold and wind-swept day to close with a 282 total at Royal Portrush, where the year’s final Major was making its return to after 68 years.
“I’m delighted to have made Asia and Korea proud today. It was not easy playing under such wet and windy conditions and we are generally not used to that. But I managed to hang in there all week and I’m glad my efforts paid off,” said Park.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the 36-year-old as he had missed the cut in his Carnoustie debut last year.
Park ensured he would prolong his stay in his second appearance at The Open by accustoming himself to the weather conditions by playing at the Irish and Scottish Opens prior to his arrival to Royal Portrush.
“Although I missed the cuts in those two events, it was a very good learning experience. I got to learn how to hit my balls better into the wind and all the different aspects of controlling the ball better,” said Park.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat signed off with his best round at The Open with a 67 to take tied-32nd place while South Africa’s Justin Harding posted a 76 to take a share of 41st place.
India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who is the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, marked his best performance at a Major championship by closing with a 68 to finish tied-51st while Japan’s Yosuke Asaji closed with a 76 to share 67th place with American JB Holmes, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.