Queenstown, New Zealand, February 26: Defending champion Zach Murray of Australia is eager for more success after completing a long-haul flight from Mexico, in time to defend his title at the 101st New Zealand Open present by Sky Sport which starts on Thursday.
After competing in his maiden World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship where he finished tied-48th last week, the 22-year-old returns to familiar winning grounds in Queenstown where he won his first title as a professional last year.
It was also Murray’s first win in his third start on the Asian Tour since he graduated from Qualifying School in December 2018.
Major winners Michael Campbell of New Zealand along with Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy are also among the 156 professionals who will join 156 amateurs for the tournament at Millbrook Resort and The Hills.
Ogilvy spent much of the year settling his family into life in Australia after spending a large part of his life in the United States where he won the 2006 US Open.
While he concedes he may not be able to beat his younger rivals in distance now, the 42-year-old is hopeful his vast experience can still put him in good stead for a good showing this week.
Campbell, who headed Tiger Woods by two shots at Pinehurst in 2005 to secure a place in golfing history, returned to the game at the New Zealand Open last year.
The 2000 New Zealand Open champion is pleased to be in good shape physically, but admittedly felt that he is lacking in tournament play after being unable to secure regular starts on the Seniors Tour.
The tournament tees off with 156 professionals and 156 amateurs playing at Millbrook Resort and The Hills, before the cut for the final two rounds are played at Millbrook Resort.
The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.
Chinese Taipei, February 26: The US$500,000 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship (TPC) will celebrate its 11th consecutive edition when it is once again hosted at the Linkou International Golf and Country Club from October 8-11.
The Yeangder TPC made its debut on the Asian Tour in 2010 where it initially offered a prize purse of US$300,000 for the first two years before the kitty was further raised to US$500,000 in 2012.
Since it first featured on the Asian Tour schedule a decade ago, the Yeangder TPC has established itself as a highly popular event for both players and fans in Chinese Taipei.
It has also recorded several significant milestones in the tournament’s illustrious history.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar holds the honour of the largest winning margin when he triumphed by four shots over American Jason Knutzon and Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant in 2012.
Thaworn, who won the inaugural Yeangder TPC in 2010, is the first and only player to have won the event more than once as he would emerge victorious again in 2013.
American John Catlin won the 2018 Yeangder TPC for his third Asian Tour title in 2018 and his winning total of 15-under-par 273 remains as the lowest recorded score in the tournament’s history.
On the home front, Chinese Taipei’s Lu Wei-chih remains the only local player to have won the event in 2011.
Mr. Emmet Hsu, Chairman of the Yeangder Group said: “The Yeangder TPC has enjoyed great success and welcomed many worthy champions since it was inaugurated in 2010. These are certainly exciting times for golf in Asia with the rise of many good players from this part of the world. We look forward to seeing many of these best players from the Asian Tour when the Yeangder TPC returns in October.”
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO, Asian Tour said: “The Yeangder TPC, which is celebrating its 11th consecutive edition this year, has always attracted some of the best talents from the Asian Tour while also giving opportunities to others to compete against the best.
“It is one of the most popular events on the Asian Tour, made possible by the continued support from Mr. Emmet Hsu and his team. We look forward to returning to its regular host venue at the Linkou International Golf and Country Club in October.”
The Yeangder TPC is one of two Asian Tour tournaments to be staged annually in Chinese Taipei, with the other being the Mercuries Taiwan Masters.
Kanchanaburi, Thailand, February 25: The inaugural Royal’s Cup 2020 is gearing up to be a highly anticipated event and has now been uplifted with the support of automotive giants.
With just under a fortnight to go, interest in the Royal’s Cup 2020 has been shifting to high gears with a stable of automobile giants committing to the event.
The Royal’s Cup 2020 is one of the first outings for many players who would have graduated from the Tour’s Qualifying School and tees off at the Grand Prix Golf Club from March 12-15.
The tournament is promoted by Grand Prix International, the company behind the Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS) which has been a major event on Thailand’s automotive scene for over 40 years.
Apart from the US$400,000 prize purse, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda, MG, and Isuzu are among the brands that have come on board where their vehicles will be offered as Hole-In-One and Albatross prizes to the 150 professionals battling for top honours at the Royal’s Cup 2020.
The first player to ace any of the par-three holes during tournament play will drive home with automobiles from the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and MG respectively while the first player to record an albatross on hole 14 will drive home with a Fiat provided by Grand Prix International. A brand new Isuzu awaits on the 18th hole.
The respective car makers will enjoy the privilege of being part of the inaugural event at Grand Prix Golf Club which serves as a perfect accompaniment to the BIMS.
Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Poom Saksansin are among the local hopefuls who have committed to the Royal’s Cup 2020 and are already looking forward to teeing up at the inaugural event.
“My wife and I recently welcomed our first child, Vera and a new car would certainly be a welcome present for us. It’s great to see the tournament receiving such amazing support and I’m sure all the players are going to set their sights on the par-three holes and play more attention to these holes.
“My form over the last season and the start of this season has been good and I am looking forward to competing on home soil,” said Gunn.
Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO, Cho Minn Thant said: “The impressive line-up of vehicles that will be offered as prizes for our members as well as the commitment shown by the various car makers for the Royal’s Cup 2020 is a strong testament to the appeal of professional golf in Thailand and the Asian Tour. We’re looking forward to a memorable week in what will be the Tour’s maiden visit to Kanchanaburi next month.”
Queenstown, New Zealand, February 25: Korea’s Joohyung Kim is ready to rise to the occasion again as he makes his debut at the 101st New Zealand, presented by Sky Sport which starts on Thursday.
The 17-year-old will be hoping not to get too distracted by the stunning views that Queenstown has to offer when the tournament tees off.
After striking off two items on his bucket list, Kim is now hoping to add another tick, starting with his move on the Official World Golf Ranking where he is currently in 141st place.
Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert believes his latest win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) last month will reignite his title bid after stuttering start where he missed the cut in Hong Kong and finished tied-59th in Singapore.
The two-time Asian Tour winner has finished tied-29th twice in his last two previous appearances at the New Zealand Open in 2018 and 2019.
While Kim and Pavit are proven winners on the Asian Tour, Kosuke Hamamoto is seeking his breakthrough after enjoying a solid rookie season in 2019 where he finished in 31st place on the Order of Merit following two top-10s
The 20-year-old, whose father is Japanese and mother is Thai, fell short of his maiden win in Chinese Taipei last year with a second-place finish when he finished in second place and is relishing the opportunity to put himself into contention this week.
A professional field of 152 players will play the first two rounds alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the second round cut of 60 and ties. The final two rounds will be played at Millbrook.
The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.
Zach Murray (AUS)
I just landed in this morning and it’s been a pretty big day and a half for me but I’m feeling pretty good. I just had a nice pie from the bakery in Arrowtown so that’s fixed me up pretty good. It was an amazing week last week in Mexico and then the last 12 months has been a bit of a blur for me really. It’s been a lot of, obviously starting really here last year I sort of kick-started me for 2019 and I played quite well up in Asia and in the co-sanctioned stuff and then was able to finish the year decent at the PGA and get my European Tour card so that was a huge bonus for me. I’m feeling pretty good. I had a fair bit of sleep on the plane and the last few months my swing has been feeling pretty consistent. Obviously last week, I get a lot of confidence from that and then I think I’ve said it all along this is one of my favourite places in the world, Queenstown and coming here I was really excited. When I rocked up to the hotel this morning my photo was in the front of the hotel so that was quite strange. It’s just so cool. I’m super excited and I think just getting those feelings back of last year and I’m playing here tomorrow but playing at The Hills on Friday and sort of maybe going down the 18th it’s the next time I’ve been down there since last year that’ll be pretty cool. There were a lot of nerves flowing there last year so probably not as many on Friday but hopefully I can reignite that stuff and get the lead on Sunday.
Geoff Ogilvy (AUS)
It has been a change since I moved back to Australia after 20 years in America. Doing the school run a lot more, not getting on a plane every Sunday night has been nice. Getting used to that and settling the family down in Australia has been cool. I am going to play a bit more. I am certainly not done. I’d like to think I can have my cake and eat it – be a good dad at home and still play a few tournaments around the world. The US Open is back at Winged Foot this year and I try to play a little patch around that and see if I can get through and have to qualify for that. The game is changing and getting a bit younger and more powerful but while you lose a little in length, you gain it in experience, so golf looks after to you a bit. In other sports the manager says you are done, go do something else. But golf doesn’t do that. There’s plenty of time, I am not in a hurry to do anything.
Michael Campbell (NZL)
I’m back to my fighting weight you could say. I’m down to 90 kilos which is what I was when I was playing which is nice. The only thing that’s lacking really is a bit of match practice, competitive rounds. I haven’t played since November so once again coming into this tournament I’m not expecting too much. I just want to support the New Zealand Open obviously and support my sponsor Manuka Doctor, who brought me over here. He’s been instigating the whole thing about me returning to New Zealand which is fantastic. So without his help and stuff like that I wouldn’t be here. It’s nice to be here. Both courses are fantastic. In great condition, wow. The Hills and in here (Millbrook) it’s a bit more lush, a bit more green, the rough is definitely longer than it was last year. I’m playing with another Major Champion, Geoff (Ogilvy), a very good friend of mine so it’s going to be fun playing with him and my sponsor Matt.
Joohyun Kim (KOR)
I’ve never been to a golf tournament where I’m always taking out my phone to take pictures. But I’m doing it all the time here. The views here are simply amazing. It’s going to be an exciting week. I’m pretty sure of that. I’ve prepared well for this tournament and hopefully the results will show again. Obviously, qualifying for The Open in Singapore last month was a very big achievement for me. And also, winning my first Asian Tour title in India last year. I want to break into the top-100 in the world ranking now. I know I’m in a good position and I’ve a lot of tournaments lining up. So, hopefully I can do that because the Asian Tour will present me with those opportunities for me to do well.
Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA)
This is my third time here and it’s always a joy to be here. It’s so beautiful and I just love everything here. I love the course here and it’s also good fun playing with the amateurs with this kind of format. It was nice to win again on the Asian Tour after three years with that victory in Sabah last year. I didn’t play too well in his first two events in Hong Kong and Singapore this year. Then I got another win on the ADT at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship last month which is another huge confidence booster. That win was timely because I felt I was really swinging very badly in those two events. I managed to address them and went on to win again. So all these are good signs that my good form is returning.
Kosuke Hamamoto (THA)
I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place and I’m finally here. I’m so happy of what I’ve managed to achieve as a rookie last year and with my second year on Tour now, I’m going to set some new goals and keep progressing. To be honest, the first goal is to get that first win on the Asian Tour and as a professional. But I know I have to keep staying patient and keep myself chances. You cannot hurry things but the goal is for that breakthrough.
Hua Hin, Thailand, February 23: Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith restored his much-needed confidence after closing with a one-under-par 70 to finish top of the class with a one-shot victory at the Final Stage of the 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School on Sunday.
Playing in his third straight attempt at the Qualifying School, the 23-year-old led the grueling 90-hole battle from the second round before carding three birdies against two bogeys for a five-day total of 15-under-par 340 at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club.
Follett-Smith, a one-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, was among the 35 graduates, who successfully secured their Asian Tour cards for the 2020 season after finishing inside top-35 and ties at the conclusion of the fifth and final round which was held on the A&B course.
Australian Will Heffernan, who had advanced from the First Stage of the Qualifying School last week, made it a memorable two-week run after signing for a solid 66 to take second place. Like Follett-Smith, Heffernan also proved third time lucky in his Qualifying School attempt.
Sweden’s Malcolm Kokocinski successfully regained his Tour card after enduring a disappointing 2019 season. A closing 71 saw him share third place on 343 with 19-year-old Burmese Hein Sithu, who lived up to expectations by closing with a second straight 69.
Other notable graduates include Filipino veteran Antonio Lascuna, Korean hotshot Bio Kim, as well as former Asian Tour champions Scott Strange of Australia, Natipong Srithong of Thailand and Masanori Kobayashi of Japan.
The 35 graduates feature players from Korea (8), Thailand (6), Australia (5), South Africa (3), Sweden (3), United States (2), Japan (2), France (1), India (1), Ireland (1), Myanmar (1), Philippines (1) and Zimbabwe (1).
The 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School, which comprised of two stages – First Stage and Final stage, attracted a total of 458 entries from 37 countries across the globe.
Players who compete in the 2020 Qualifying School will also be eligible to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which was launched in 2010 as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour.
Hua Hin, Thailand, February 23: Read what players have to say following the final round of the Asian Tour Qualifying School on Sunday.
Benjamin Follett-Smith (ZIM) – Final round 70 (-1), Total 340 (-15)
It’s amazing to win this. There are so many positives to take away from this week. It’s just one of the biggest for me. This was exactly what I wanted to do. Nothing has really sunk in yet. It’s just been tough.
I had a tough stretch after winning on the Sunshine Tour last year. But coming here and win the Asian Tour Qualifying School just proves to me that I am actually good enough. It’s a huge thing for me personally. There’s so much more to say but I’m happy with the way I played.
I read a book called ‘Fearless Golf’ recently and I think it kind of put things in perspective for me. I realised I need to start playing for myself and not other people so I won’t worry about what others are thinking. That got to me and I was able to go out there and enjoy my golf.
It’s been an incredible week. Scott Vincent, obviously, has done this before and look where he is now. It’s a big thing for me to try and follow his footsteps and be as good or better one day.
Will Heffernan (AUS) – Final round 66 (-5), Total 341 (-14)
I had a good round. It was pretty windy earlier but I made some nice putts. It’s been a really enjoyable week. I’ve been playing quite a bit in Asia now and I think I’ve gotten used to the temperature. I feel more prepared this year.
I have been to a fair few of Qualifying Schools over the last couple of years and I have gained some good experiences which helped this week. To get my Asian Tour card for this season just means a lot to me. I am from Melbourne and I turned professional last year.
Hein Sithu (MYN) – Final round 69 (-2) A&B Course, Total 343 (-12)
I am super happy and super excited right now. It was a rough day today, but then I managed to get out of it, so I’m super happy that I get to play this season on the Asian Tour. It’s just a dream come true.
I felt a lot pressure today. I just had to put my head in the game, I mean I can’t watch the other guys play and just play my own game. But yeah, it was very nerve racking. With the wind picking up pretty bad today as well, I had to put my head in the game.
I made five birdies and three bogeys today, so I still managed to shoot two under and I’m so happy about it. Asian Tour here I come!
Malcolm Kokocinski (SWE) – Final round 71 (E) A&B Course, Total 343 (-12)
It feels good, I’m satisfied with the week. It’s been a tough two years now almost, so I’m excited and feeling energized from making it through and playing well all week.
I’m trying to do like in 2018 and win one of the smaller events, that’s my main goal for this year. Just keep pushing and refocus a little bit, and practice a little bit differently compared to what I’ve done in the last three years.
It’s great for the confidence absolutely. My confidence has been low lately, but seeing my game improving makes me a little bit more confident again. So, I’m just trying to keep the same mentality I’ve had this week, and previously the last two months, and just being prepared a little bit differently.
I didn’t play well today, I shot even par and I hit some great shots but didn’t make a putt all day. I had a chance to win and I’m kind of a little disappointed I didn’t, but at least I was in contention with few holes left to play. I hit some great shots coming down the stretch too, so I’m satisfied.
Bio Kim (KOR) – Final round 68 (-3), Total 344 (-11)
It was really windy out there but I hung in there. Was the best putting days that I have had the last couple of days but I hung in there and hit some good iron shots which kept me in the moment. I’m happy with the way I finished.
I’ve played the Asian Tour Qualifying School a couple of times before but I never had a full season on the Asian Tour before. I’m looking forward to it now. I’m just proud of myself for finishing strong this week. I managed the misses well and I played solid around the greens this week.
Hua Hin, Thailand, February 22: Teenager Hein Sithu of Myanmar put himself on the verge of securing his 2020 Asian Tour card after signing for a two-under-par 69 to move into the top-five following the fourth and penultimate round of the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Burmese, who missed out on making the final round in his first attempt last year, fired four birdies to turn in 32 before closing with two dropped shots on the C&D course to tied in fifth place on 10-under-par 274 total at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club.
Sithu sits four shots back of Zimbabwean Benjamin Follet-Smith, who extended his overnight lead to two after making a late comeback with three birdies in his closing five holes to sign for a battling 70 on the A&B course.
Sweden’s Malcolm Kokocinski kept up his hopes of reclaiming his Asian Tour card after carding a second 66 on the A&B course this week to grab a share of second place with countryman Bjorn Hellgren, who marked the lowest round of the day with a 64 on the same course.
South African Neil Schietekat, a three-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, slipped to fourth place following a 72 on Course A&B but remained well in position to secure his 2020 Asian Tour card in what is his maiden attempt at the Qualifying School.
The 72-hole cut was set at three-under-par 281 with a total of 71 players, who finished inside top-70 and ties, progressing into the fifth and final round. The leading 35 players and ties following the conclusion of 90 holes on Sunday will be ranked accordingly for the 2020 season.
The first four rounds of the 90-hole battle were held across Courses A&B and C&D at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club. The final round will be held only on the A&B course on Sunday.
Hua Hin, Thailand, February 22: Read what players have to say following the fourth round of the Asian Tour Qualifying School on Saturday.
Ben Follett-Smith (ZIM) – Fourth round 70 (-1) A&B course, Total 270 (-14)
Today was a complete grind, I mean it started on the first hole (the 10th) I actually had my yardage book the wrong way around, so I started thinking I was playing number one. I got down the fairway and I was like there is no star here, and I was a bit confused and disoriented.
Anyway, that probably shuffled me up a bit and felt un-organized. I made a bogey on my second hole which is the 11th, I hit a terrible shot off the tee and just kind of stayed positive, understand that this is golf and that happens. Luckily, we found the ball and made bogey.
It went my way kind of towards the end, but I think that’s because I stayed patient. I made a lot of two-foot, three-foot putts on these greens that are pretty difficult. I’m not taking them for granted at any time.
And that kind of just kept me in it, just kept making those little putts and two-putting. My caddy just kept telling me just stay patient and eventually they’ll go in. I hit a pretty good bunk shot on the par-five which left me like a four-footer for my first birdie of the day. On the next I hit it really closely and made birdie again.
Tomorrow I’m just going to play it one by one all the time, one shot at a time. I don’t have very many expectations, I’m not going to create any expectations for myself. I feel like I have done that enough this year and it’s not doing well for me, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.
Just stay positive and stay in the present. One shot at a time and make sure I’m aware of the wind and making those two and three-footers. Those three-foot putts, the time they need and 100% concentration.
Malcolm Kokocinski (SWE) – Fourth round 66 (-5) A&B Course, Total 272 (-12)
It was good. I have been playing good all week to be honest. It was windy out there so I’m just trying to stay patient. I finished off strong today which gave me a little boost for tomorrow. I’m really excited, just one more day to go.
I putted well today. I hit a lot of good shots too and I was able to hit it close. I feel confident on these greens. It’s been a long week but I had fun. I just told myself to take it one day at a time. I wasn’t really focusing on how many rounds we have played.
It’s hot out there and I haven’t been practicing much after the round just to conserve some energy. It’s been tough since winning in Bangladesh actually. I haven’t been able to continue the good form and I had a shoulder injury. It would be nice to get back on Tour with a good finish tomorrow.
Neil Schietekat (RSA) – Fourth round 72 (+1) A&B Course, Total 273 (-11)
It was tough out there with the wind. The greens started to become crusty but I putted well. Just couldn’t get the greens quicker. I have been playing well. I just want to keep playing the way that I have been playing so far and hit it closer tomorrow and I should be fine.
Obviously, we all came here with one reason. To leave here with an Asian Tour card would be great. I’ve enjoyed myself this week. Everyone’s friendly and accommodating. Playing the A&B course again tomorrow, I would have to continue to hit the wedges well.
Hein Sithu (MYN) – Fourth round 69 (-2) C&D Course, Total 274 (-10)
It was tough out there today. The wind was picking up all day. I made some good calculations but missed out which caused me to drop some shots on the last two holes. The best shot I hit today was on the par-three 12th hole. I hit a three-iron to about one foot.
The first two rounds have been tough for me after I played really well yesterday and that gave me a lot of confidence heading into today’s round. I felt really good with my game. Playing the A&B course tomorrow will be different. It’s the opposite of C&D I think. C&D is longer and wider and you just can’t afford to make any mistakes.
I will just go out and play my own game tomorrow. Just keep my head in the game and that’s it. This is my second attempt at the Qualifying School. I missed out on making the final round last year. Conditions are different from last year but the experience helped. I was pretty nervous last year because it was my first time.
I turned professional in March 2018. I have been playing a lot on the All Thailand Golf Tour last year. I kept my card there for 2020.
I look up to a lot of players on the Asian Tour actually. I played with Antonio Lascuna today and he’s one of them. Zaw Moe and Kyi Hla look after me a lot too. I have always wanted to play on the Asian Tour. It would mean a lot if I can get my card successfully tomorrow.