Queenstown, New Zealand, February 29: Korean teenager Joohyung Kim had a crucial birdie to thank as he closed with a four-under-par 67 to head into the final round with a share of the lead with Australia’s Lucas Herbert at the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport on Saturday.
Kim looked in danger of relinquishing his lead for the first time this week but calmly sank his putt from 10 feet on the par-three 18th to sign for a three-day total of 15-under-par 199 at the Millbrook Resort.
Herbert made one of the biggest moves of the day, having trailed Kim by two shots when he stepped up to the opening tee.
The 24-year-old, who won the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour last month, stormed to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in his final five holes.
2011 New Zealand Open champion Brad Kennedy of Australia closed strongly with back-to-back birdies to trail the pair by two shots in outright third place while American Chan Kim, a former member of the Asian Tour who topped the class at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2013, is tied for fourth with Australia’s Nick Flanagan on 202 total.
Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert signed for a 70 to stay five shots back of the leaders in tied-ninth place with Australia’s Ben Eccles and Kieran Muir.
Like his second Asian Tour win in Sabah last year, the 30-year-old Thai is ready to mount a late fight back, having been in similar situations before where he knows that all is not lost yet.
Joohyung Kim (KOR) Third round
I played really well today. I was playing well off the tee and approach to the greens, but I did leave a lot of shots out there on the greens to be honest. But you can’t have all days when it goes your way, I’m still in the hunt as I gave myself a really good chance for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be fun to be honest, playing with Lucas is going to be really enjoyable. Obviously he’s a European Tour winner, so it’s going to be wherever it goes, whether I win or lose tomorrow, I’m just going to really enjoy myself.
Lucas Herbert (AUS) Third round 65 (-6) Total 199 (-15)
I was pretty happy with it. I started off quite nicely and got that little three-birdie run through the middle and got myself in a nice position but then straight after that I felt like I really battled my golf swing for a few holes and hit some errant ones. To fight back like I did and make some really good swings sort of 15, 16, 17 and even 18 there to hit it in the middle of the green, I was really proud of that because I think we’ve got a bit of work to do on the range to get ready for tomorrow.
Chan Kim (USA) Third round 65 (-6) Total 202 (-12)
I knew that the conditions were going to be very calm today, with not so much wind, so I knew I had to post something low to get close. I played about as good as I could play and left a few out there, but you just can’t complain, it’s six-under and up at the top of the leaderboard, it’s a pretty good feeling. I’ve been playing pretty well and I had a good offseason with my coach. I’m definitely really looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what I can do. Fortunately I played in the morning yesterday when the wind wasn’t as bad, but the first day when we had a lot of wind and some rain, it played really tough and some of those pins you just couldn’t get at. A day like today, it made it easier to fire at pins and give yourself birdie chances. From the looks of it I’m going to have to go pretty low tomorrow, especially if the weather stays like this, so I will be playing fairly aggressive. I just hope that the putts drop and we’ll see how it goes.
Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) Third round 70 (-1) Total 204 (-10)
I didn’t drive the ball very well today, I couldn’t find the fairways and it was difficult for me to hit from the rough. Especially with the pin positions, playing in the afternoon with firm greens. Overall, I’m very happy with the good start on the front nine, three-under-par, so I can still go low tomorrow. I had a good chance after the front nine today, my putting is still very good, but on the back nine I’m disappointed that I can’t find the fairways. So it puts me in a very difficult spot for tomorrow, but who knows.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 29: The highly anticipated Bandar Malaysia Open is set to feature a strong international field, comprising of over 50 Asian Tour champions and five Order of Merit winners, when it gets underway at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club from March 5 to 8 next week.
A total of 156 players from over 20 countries will be vying for top honours in the US$1 million event, which will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).
Order of Merit leader Wade Ormsby of Australia will spearhead the Asian Tour challenge in the storied event alongside teen titan Joohyung Kim of Korea, John Catlin of the United States, Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and India’s Rashid Khan.
The 39-year-old Ormsby, who claimed his third Asian Tour victory at the 2020 season-opener in Hong Kong last month, enjoyed his best outing in six previous appearances at the Malaysian Open when he came in tied-11th place in the last edition in 2015.
Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, who sits in a current 116th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), will also make his debut appearance in the prestigious event as the highest ranked player in the elite field.
Ben Leong, who remains the only Malaysian to win an Asian Tour event on home soil with his lone victory coming in 2008, will spearhead the local charge which consists of 36 professionals and 11 amateurs. They are all vying to become the first player to win their National Open which was inaugurated in 1962.
Local veterans S. Murthy, Rashid Ismail and Danny Chia, the first Malaysian winner on the Asian Tour and the first to play all four rounds at The Open, will also be part of the home challenge at the Bandar Malaysia Open, which returns to the Asian Tour schedule after a four-year hiatus.
Rashid was part of the team with Chia who qualified for the Argentina World Cup in 2000 while Murthy played for Malaysia between 1990 to 1996 and has been an active player on the domestic circuit and the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in recent years.
The highly acclaimed Bandar Malaysia Open, which boasts a new tagline ‘Pride, Passion, Prominence’, is the flagship event for the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA).
India’s Anirban Lahiri along with Thai stars Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Korea’s Noh Seung-yul and compatriot Arjun Atwal have gone on to lift the coveted Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns following their victories in the storied event.
Queenstown, New Zealand, February 28: Korean teenage prodigy Joohyung Kim remains the boy to catch as he signed for a four-under-par 68 to take the second round lead at the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport on Friday.
Playing at The Hills, the 17-year-old showed why he is fast becoming one of the rising stars from the Asian Tour by continuing to feature prominently on the leaderboard with his two-day total of 11-under-par 132.
Qualifying School graduate Ben Eccles of Australia resumed his whirlwind adventure on the Asian Tour by firing a 68 to trail Kim by one shot in second place while Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert posted the day’s lowest round with a 64 at The Hills to share third place with Australia’s Lucas Herbert.
Eccles secured his Asian Tour card at Qualifying School in Hua Hin, Thailand last week before receiving a late call up for the tournament, having been on the reserve list.
The Australian opened with a 65 at the Millbrook Resort before his second round 68 put him well on track for his first victory as a professional, having claimed a debut victory in the 2015 NSW Open as an amateur.
Pavit’s game also caught fire as he signed for a bogey-free 64. Having gone five-over in his opening five holes in the first round, the Thai knows his mental strength will be key as he eyes a weekend charge.
The weekend cut was set at even-par.
Simultaneous to the tournament, a Pro-Am competition has also been played with a two-ball-best-ball format this week.
Apart from the 77 professionals who will progress to the weekend rounds at Millbrook Resort, the top 40 pro-am teams will also continue to compete in round three of the New Zealand Open Pro-Am Championship at Millbrook Resort.
A second cut will then be made in the New Zealand Open Pro-Am Championship after the third round with only the top-10 pro-am teams making it into the fourth round.
Joohyung Kim (KOR) Second round 68 (-4), Total 132 (-11)
I played really well. With the tough conditions, it was not easy. But I managed myself really well and hope I can keep it up at the weekend. I have been working really hard and it is nice the scores have matched the work. I am still not at the top and I am trying to learn every day from the guys who are way more experienced than me. I am very fortunate that the veterans have been very nice to me and tell me how to play golf, how to play my best. My ball striking has been good. On this course if you are not in play, it is really hard to go around. Tomorrow is only the third round to be honest. I am in the halfway lead but there are so many big names just one or two shots away and those guys, when it comes to the intense moments, they always deliver. I just have to bring my A-game, stick to the game plan and play the best I can.
Ben Eccles (AUS) Second round 68 (-4) Total 133 (-10)
I earned my Asian Tour card last week and we thought we travel anyway, but we got the call on Wednesday morning saying I was in. We were going to have a two-week holiday regardless of what happened so it’s just a bonus to be playing. Yesterday I played awesome, in those conditions as well it just all came together. This morning I got off to a fast start – eagle, birdie, birdie. It awesome, it’s an amazing feeling and hopefully I can keep going. I just wanted to keep enjoying it, that’s been the main thing for me this week. The game still feels pretty strong, particularly the last couple of months. Mentally I’m enjoying it more, I want to be out there playing. The rough is up this year, which is going to make it interesting over the weekend.
Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) Second round 64 (-8) Total 134 (-9)
I’m very pleased with how I’ve played today especially with my driver as I managed to hit most of the fairways. I love this course as it favours the long hitters like me. I made a lot of putts today too. So overall, I’m very happy. I was five-over after the first five holes yesterday and I told myself I had to forget everything then and try to move on. The weather was so bad yesterday. It was windy, cold and was raining. It was like my win in Sabah last year where I made a strong comeback to win. I just told myself to regain my focus and as long as I can do that, I still have a chance.
Wade Ormsby (AUS) Second round 71 (-1) Total 136 (-7)
It was a bit of a messy start out there. I just couldn’t find my rhythm. I warmed up fine but on some days in golf, it just gets away from you. I was fighting hard and I knew I was playing well so I got some momentum through the turn there and could have made a lot more actually. So overall, I’m pretty happy with that. Since my win in Hong Kong, I’ve had three events where I haven’t played that well so it’s nice to be back in a bit of form. Obviously having won so recently , I’ll try to draw on those winning experiences where you are in the hunt and try to do that again this week.
Queenstown, New Zealand, February 27: Korea’s Joohyung Kim continued to underline his growing credentials as he took the opening round lead with a seven-under-par 64 at the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport on Thursday.
Australia’s Ben Eccles, who received a late entry after being a reserve for the tournament, also showed his good form by signing for a 65 to share second place with compatriots Wade Ormsby and Brad Kennedy.
Eccles had earlier earned his Asian Tour card with a tied-17th finish at Qualifying School last week.
It was a welcome return to form for Ormsby, who currently leads the Asian Tour Order of Merit. The three-time Asian Tour winner got his season off to a good start with his win in Hong Kong but missed consecutive cuts in his last three events on the European Tour.
Kim, who chose Tom as a suitable first name because he was a fan of the Thomas the Tank Engine television series, won three times on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) to earn his promotion to the Asian Tour in 2019.
He then went on to clinch his breakthrough victory in India last November to become the second youngest professional player to win on the Asian Tour at 17 years and 149 days
Kim started promisingly at the Millbrook Resort with an opening birdie on his par-four first hole before adding two more birdies on holes six and nine under gusty conditions at The Millbrook Resort.
He soared with an eagle-three on 10 before dropping his only shot of the day on 12. The 17-year-old then charged home with another three birdies on 14, 16 and 18 to take a one-shot lead over the Australian trio.
Defending champion Zach Murray of Australia posted an opening 68 at the Millbrook Resort to stay four shots back of Kim in a share of 11th place.
Joohyung Kim (KOR) First round 64 (-7)
The wind was swirling all day and it was tough. But I managed myself really well and gave myself lots of good chances and made some good putts too. I’ve been very fortunate to play well and I’ve also been working very hard. It’s nice to know that I can still post a good round after a month’s break. It’s a tough day and I’m glad I managed to do well. For tomorrow, I just have to play without any expectations and play the way I did today. A lot will also have to depend on the wind too. I’m really enjoying myself as a professional golfer. Being only 17, traveling and playing in tournaments like the New Zealand Open, it’s really a huge honour.
Ben Eccles (AUS) First round 65 (-6)
It’s pretty awesome. I said to my best mate who’s caddying for me that I just want to enjoy the week whether I get in or not and we got in yesterday morning so it’s a big bonus and to play like I did today was just awesome. I feel like my game has turned a corner in the last three or four months. I’ve been working pretty hard on some stuff so I’m excited for what’s coming. I’ve played this event three times before and I made the cut twice. I just love the place, it’s just amazing. The golf course is playing a bit harder this year with the rough up. It’s nice to get around like that. We’re off in the morning so hopefully we’ll get the better of the weather again. I think it’s the harder of the two courses (The Hills) so it’s going to be a bit of a test but I’m looking forward to it.
Wade Ormsby (AUS) First round 65 (-6)
It’s been a fantastic few days here already. You kind of forget how beautiful it is down here in Queenstown. Mike’s (Hendry) been putting pressure on me for a while to come down here and it was nice to make it happen. I had a great day out there today so I’m pretty happy with the positive start. I felt like we could have gotten the wrong side of the draw there pretty quickly so it was just a matter of hanging on early. I made some great up and downs on two and three and it was just a matter of hanging on. I started making some birdies back down the wind there on five, six, seven or seven, eight and nine. So that got a bit of momentum going and then I played nice around the back. The game feels pretty good, I putted nicely so I’m happy. I had a nice run at the end of last year. I didn’t finish off that many tournaments but obviously, Hong Kong I had a win there, Australian PGA, that one stung quite a bit but I feel like I’ve got a bit to prove to myself and I’m working pretty hard at the moment even though the last few weeks haven’t been great. I had two weeks off, I’ve rebooted, worked hard last week and it’s nice to come back here and punch out a number in round one.
Brad Kennedy (AUS) First round 66 (-6)
It was a totally different breeze to what we are used to. A totally different golf course. Luckily, I didn’t have a practise round this week, so I just went on what I know and it was a whole new experience. Sometimes there was a four or five club difference between a couple of rounds last year and this year. It was fun, I even got a chance to get home in two on 17, so that was fun. I just love coming to New Zealand. Especially knowing that you’ve won twice in New Zealand, it’s always a special feeling.
Zach Murray (AUS) First round 68 (-3)
I’m a little bit disappointed. I got to the toughest hole on the course when the wind picked up. I doubled there but managed to battle through. I played really nice today and I feel good after the jet lag coming back from Mexico. A lot will have to depend on the weather tomorrow. The weather controls it a lot out here. I haven’t played in a weather like this in Queenstown before so it was a little different today. The ball gets knocked around a fair bit. And you’ve just got to sort of take it as it comes. I haven’t been back to The Hills since last year. I didn’t get a practice round out there so I’ve just got to try and stay in it all week and hopefully the energy levels are up by the end of it.
Ryan Fox (NZL) First round 70 (-2)
I don’t think I have had a day like that for a long, long time. We started with a strong north-easterly and when we were standing on the 15th tee it switched to a very strong north-westerly. When we were putting on the fourth, one of the signboards blew over on 11. All of a sudden it dropped on seven and blew about three different directions coming home. Plus a couple of spits of rain, it was a strange day. I’m not sure what the weather forecast will bring for tomorrow. I don’t care if it is windy but I would like it to blow from the same direction the whole time, that would be nice.
By. V. Krishnaswamy
Swamy is one of India’s leading sports writers, who has covered over 20 Majors and 250 international golf tournaments.
Florida, United States, February 26: Arjun Atwal chipped in for an eagle in a play-off and won. It was not for a title but a spot into the $7 million Honda Classic on the PGA Tour this week. The Honda Classic has the toughest Monday Qualifier on the PGA Tour; so much so some even call as the “Super Bowl” of Monday qualifiers in golf because it comes only once a year!
Atwal finished his final round in Puerto Rico on Sunday and took a flight out to Florida to play the Monday Qualifier.
He shot 67, while three others had 66 each and there were four spots. Canada’s Adam Svensson also shot 67, so there was a play-off. Atwal chipped in for an eagle and grabbed the last spot.
Monday Qualifiers are a really long shot at getting into a tournament, let alone win it. The entry costs $ 450 and a lot of heartbreaks. This year there were 458 starters for Pre-qualifiers and the Final Qualifier and only four spots were available.
But Atwal loves the adrenaline, he once said. In 2010, he won a Monday Qualifier for Wyndham Championship and became only the third man since 1986 to win a tournament through that route.
Kenny Knox did it at Honda Classic in 1986; Fred Wadsworth did the same at Southern Open the same year; and Atwal did I tin 2010 at Wyndham. Last year Corey Conners joined the exclusive club by ‘Monday Qualifying’ and winning Texas Open.
Atwal has a thing for Monday Qualifiers. After the 2010 Wyndham success, he came through a Monday Qualifier again last year at 3M Open and was in contention for first two days – he was fourth and seventh and still in Top-10 after 54 holes before slipping to T-23 on Sunday. Rookie Matthew Wolff won his maiden title.
This year’s Honda Classic Monday Qualifier had 13 different PGA TOUR winners, including Atwal at Banyan Cay. The players, from more than a dozen different countries, had a combined 23 European Tour wins and 41 Korn Ferry Tour wins. The field’s total PGA TOUR earnings was in excess of $212 million.
The names included the likes of Tour winners, Jonathan Byrd, David Lingmerth and Atwal; veteran Australians John Senden and Robert Allenby; 2016 Olympian Seamus Power of Ireland; and Arnold Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders.
Atwal, 46, born in Asansol, India went to College in the US and turned pro in 1995. He has one PGA Tour win – the only one ever by an Indian – besides three European Tour and eight Asian Tour wins. He also has a win on the Korn Ferry Tour. He was Asian Tour No. 1 in 2003.
Not every event has a Monday qualifiers – THE PLAYERS Championship, the four majors, the World Golf Championships events, the FedExCup Playoffs or invitation-only events don’t have any qualifiers.
But when there is one, there is a good chance that Atwal, if he is not already in the field, will be there to have a go.