Sentosa, Singapore, July 31: Teen sensation Joohyung Kim of Korea has been proclaimed the winner of the 2019/20 Panasonic Swing after officials decided to conclude the third edition of the series following the cancellation of the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship which was slated to take place in Japan this September.
The Panasonic Swing, a ranking based on aggregate points earned by players at selected tournaments across Asia, was originally planned to span across events in five countries, with the top-three finishers sharing a total prize purse of US$150,000 via a bonus pool reward scheme.
Disruptions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, have forced officials to conclude the 2019/2020 Panasonic Swing where the top-three winners will now be decided based on points accumulated from three events – 2019 Thailand Open, 2019 Panasonic Open India and 2019 BNI Indonesian Masters. The total prize purse has also been adjusted accordingly to US$90,000.
Kim, who turned 18 years old last month, will take home a bonus prize of US$50,000 after sealing the top spot with a total of 2,172.60 points. Kim claimed a notable tied-sixth finish at the Thailand Open, where he made his second Asian Tour start last season and first after securing three victories on the Asian Development Tour the same year.
The talented Korean went on to clinch a sensational breakthrough at the Panasonic Open India a week later, becoming the second youngest professional to win on the Asian Tour at the age of 17 years and 149 days.
He would then conclude his dream rookie season with a tied-21st place finish at the BNI Indonesian Masters, which has now become the third and last leg of the 2019/20 Panasonic Swing.
“I’m thrilled to win the Panasonic Swing. It has been a solid run for me. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me in my journey so far. A big thank you to Panasonic for their support as well. This is a great boost to me. I will continue to work hard,” said Kim.
Kim’s amazing run spilled over to the 2020 season, where he secured back-to-back top-five finishes in four starts to sit in sixth place on the current Order of Merit.
His fourth-place result at the SMBC Singapore Open earned him a coveted spot at The 149th Open, which will now be held at Royal St. George’s in 2021.
His Major debut, however, came earlier than expected as he is now set to tee up in the PGA Championship next week, thanks to his first victory on home soil which saw him break into top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) earlier this month.
India’s Shiv Kapur, winner of the inaugural Panasonic Swing, came in second with 1,960 points while American John Catlin took third place with 1,903.60 points. They will take home prize purses of US$25,000 and US$15,000 respectively from the reward scheme.
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Tour, said: “Panasonic has always been a great supporter of the Asian Tour. We are very thankful for their continued commitment and contributions in promoting professional golf across the region despite the challenging circumstances the world is experiencing in 2020.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to shorten the third edition of the Panasonic Swing but I believe the long-lasting partnership we have forged over the years will continue to grow as we strive for more collaborations in future seasons.”
Tetsuro Maruyama, Head of Secretary Office at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship, said: “We would like to congratulate Kim on winning the 2019/20 Panasonic Swing. Kim’s a really talented player and his performance has been impressive. We wish him continued success and we believe he will become a world-class player soon!
“Although the 2019/20 Panasonic Swing was forced to be shorten, we are very pleased to stage three successful editions with the Asian Tour. Not only did we witness exciting golfing action, but we also did our part to support the players and promote the game of golf across the region. Furthermore, we had a confident that the sports always create a better life and a better world for people.
“We would like to thank the Asian Tour and their players for their participation. We look forward to the day when we can play and enjoy the game peacefully again.”
Japan, July 31: The Panasonic Corporation and Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) today announced the cancellation of the 2020 Panasonic Open Golf Championship in Japan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The popular event, which celebrated its milestone 10th edition on the Asian Tour in 2019, was originally scheduled to be held at the Joyo Country Club in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, from September 24 to 27.
However, due to health and safety concerns, as well as international travel restrictions on players living outside of Japan, organisers have decided to cancel the event where Japan’s Toshinori Muto clinched his first Asian Tour title last September.
The Asian Tour and JGTO will continue to work in unison with the Panasonic Corporation for the next and future editions.
Past champions of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship include Rahil Gangjee (2018), Kenichi Kuboya (2017), Yuta Ikeda (2016), Masahiro Kawamura (2013), Masanori Kobayashi (2012), Tetsuji Hiratsuka (2011), Brendan Jones (2010), Daisuke Maruyama (2009) and Hideto Tanihara (2008).
Sentosa, Singapore, July 31: Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore is set to make history today by becoming the world’s first golf club to join the United Nation’s Sports for Climate Action Initiative.
The prestigious golf venue, set on Sentosa Island alongside a diverse array of unique leisure experiences, is already highly regarded for its approach to environmental sustainability, and takes this significant step following its collaboration with international sustainable golf non-profit, GEO Foundation.
The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Initiative aims to support and guide sports organisations and their communities on a path to achieving the global climate goals set out by world leaders in the Paris Agreement.
The golf club will add its name to an already impressive list of sporting organisations to have joined including the New York Yankees, La Liga, Sky Sports and the All England Lawn Tennis Club (Wimbledon).
Sentosa Golf Club, currently holding the accolade of World’s Best Golf Club (World Golf Awards), will join these other participants in committing to a set of five agreed principles and incorporating them into their club strategy, policies, and procedures, as well as communicating them to their wider sporting community within Singapore and other golf clubs around the world.
The initiative also provides sports organisations with a forum to pursue climate action in a consistent and supportive manner by learning from one another, disseminating good practices, lessons learned, developing new innovations, and collaborating on areas of mutual interest.
It also aims to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius, as well as strengthening the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Andrew Johnston, General Manager & Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club, said: “Becoming the first ever golf club to join the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Initiative is a tremendous honour for everyone associated with Sentosa Golf Club. We have already taken great strides with our sustainability programme in the last two years and are therefore extremely excited to be joining this initiative. We believe it is the right step for us as a club to continue on our journey to tackle climate change throughout the world and the game of golf.”
Sentosa Golf Club also recently announced a new partnership with GEO Foundation, an international non-profit which aims to inspire, support, recognise and share sustainability across golf. Through this collaboration, Sentosa Golf Club’s future sustainability work will be guided and supported by GEO’s sustainable golf agenda; tracked and evaluated using the industry leading OnCourse® program; verified and assured through the GEO Certified® label. It is also anticipated that GEO will help guide and accelerate sustainability action in relation to Sentosa Golf Club’s course renovations and the hosting of the SMBC Singapore Open.
Jonathan Smith, Founder and Executive Director of GEO Foundation, said: “This announcement underlines the strength of Sentosa’s forward-looking commitment to sustainability and climate action. We congratulate them on taking this important and ambitious leadership step, and look forward to supporting that commitment with the purpose-built tools, analysis and recognition that we provide to golf. Of course, we’d encourage other facilities interested in building sustainability and climate action into their operations to consider joining OnCourse® – as a practical first step to understanding current performance, guiding future efforts and establishing their position in the growing community of sustainable golf.”
Sentosa Golf Club’s green commitment was brought to the world’s attention with the launch of its #KeepItGreen campaign at the SMBC Singapore Open in January 2018. It has seen a number of key environmental features implemented at the club, such as the creation of its own bee colonies; using rechargeable lithium batteries in its golf carts; banning single use plastics from the golf course and replacing them with water stations; as well as building its own sustainable herb garden.
In January 2020, the club unveiled a new sustainability campaign, GAME ON, at the SMBC Singapore Open, that is designed to unite the global golf community in addressing the growing concerns of climate change. It aims to help golf clubs around the world to better prepare for climate change by introducing modern sustainability practices to reduce their own environmental footprint.
The campaign is closely aligned with The R&A’s 2030 Golf Course Initiative that considers the impacts, both positive and negative, of the changing climate, resource constraints and regulation on course condition and playability.
The R&A’s Asian headquarters is based at Sentosa Golf Club and they too are pushing an important sustainability agenda. Dominic Wall, Director – Asia-Pacific at The R&A, said: “We consider sustainability to be an important priority for golf and is crucial to the sport’s contribution to society, including its impact on the environment and use of resources.
“Our own Golf Course 2030 initiative aims to produce a roadmap that will outline steps to mitigate the challenges created by climate change, as well as taking advantage of the opportunities that exist to provide improved on-course conditions and playability for golfers around the world.”
ABOUT THE SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION INITIATIVE
The Sports for Climate Action initiative calls on sporting organizations to acknowledge the contribution of the sports sector to climate change and our responsibility to strive towards climate neutrality for a safer planet.
Through collective action and bold leadership, sport has the power to make this fast and drastic transformation. By signing the Framework, signatories demonstrate a commitment to playing their part to ensure the sports sector is on the path to a low-carbon future.
In line with the five core principles enshrined in the Framework and the aims of the Paris Agreement, all signatories will strive to:
1) promote greater environmental responsibility;
2) reduce the overall climate impact from sports;
3) use the platform to educate for climate action;
4) promote sustainable and responsible consumption; and
5) advocate for climate action through communications.
ABOUT SENTOSA GOLF CLUB
Sentosa Golf Club is one of the most established golf clubs in Asia. Set on Sentosa Island, with a breathtaking backdrop of Singapore’s iconic cityscape, the club regularly receives world-class accolades and is enjoyed by 1,500 distinguished members. Sentosa is currently ranked 59th ‘Top 100 World’s Greatest Golf Courses’ by Golf Digest, ‘Top 100 in the World’ by Platinum Clubs of the World, whilst both its courses occupy the top two places in Golf Digest’s latest biennial rankings for ‘Singapore’s Best Courses’. The club is home to two championship ready courses – The Serapong and The New Tanjong – which are among the most challenging yet exciting golf courses in the region. As well as its thriving reputation, the club has played host to several high-profile professional events, including the SMBC Singapore Open on a record 11 occasions, where many of the sport’s biggest names compete on the Serapong Course for one of Asia’s biggest prize funds. The club is also home to the HSBC Women’s World Championship, a marquee LPGA Tour event that has been dubbed as ‘Asia’s Major’. Offering more than a memorable golfing experience, the club has excellent meeting and banquet facilities for corporate networking, as well as high-end dining options. Between 2018 and 2019 Sentosa hosted six globally televised golf events, a feat unmatched by any other club in the world. In 2019 the club received two of Singapore’s high-profile sustainability awards, the RHT Environmental Sustainability Game Changer and Sustainability Innovator, and was voted ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ and the ‘World’s Best Golf Club’ at the World Golf Awards. Sentosa currently holds no fewer than six Asian Golf Awards, including ‘Best Managed Golf Club in Asia Pacific’, ‘Best Maintained Course in Asia Pacific’ and ‘Best Championship Course in Asia Pacific’.
ABOUT GEO FOUNDATION
GEO Foundation is the international not-for-profit dedicated to advancing sustainability in and through golf. Its goal is to work collaboratively to help the sport embrace environmental and social issues and become widely acclaimed for its role in fostering nature, conserving resources, building healthy communities and taking climate action. GEO assures the OnCourse® programmes for grassroots golf facilities, new developments and tournaments, each of which can lead to the internationally accredited, endorsed and independently verified GEO Certified® label.
July 24: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat has decided to channel his energy and focus towards the new 2020-21 PGA TOUR Season starting in September.
The Asian golf star, who turned 31 on Thursday, opted to skip the TOUR’s return to golf last month after flying home to Bangkok in mid-April following the initial suspension of the TOUR due to COVID-19.
While he has missed competition, the enforced break has proven to be a blessing in disguise as it has allowed him to rest and recuperate from a lingering knee injury sustained over a year ago.
Kiradech said he is now planning to return to his U.S. base in Orlando, Florida, sometime next month to prepare for the new season, which is tentatively set to begin September 10 at the Safeway Open in Napa, California. The U.S. Open is scheduled for the following week at Winged Foot Golf Club.
“If everything falls into plan, I will go back to Orlando in a few weeks’ time,” said Kiradech, the first Thai to hold a full PGA TOUR card. “It should give me time to prepare for the new season which will be my main focus. I will need to get ready as I want to come back stronger and regain my form. I plan to play in everything that I can get into from September onwards. I really miss the game and I want to go back to work.”
The burly Kiradech, who is often referred to as ‘Asia’s John Daly,’ has played in only six tournaments in the current 2019-20 season, with a best finish of T8 at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Korea last October. He finished tied for 27th at the Puerto Rico Open in February and missed four other cuts. He currently sits at No. 182 on the FedExCup points list.
With the PGA TOUR extending playing exemptions through the 2020-21 season due to an abbreviated year, Kiradech felt his decision to start afresh in the new season was the best option.
“I’ve not played much golf at home but I’ve stayed fit and healthy. It has been good spending time with my family. I haven’t spent too much time on golf and I hope this (health) situation will pass quickly,” said Kiradech, a former Asian Tour No. 1 and four-time European Tour winner.
With the TOUR playing its seventh tournament in the return to golf this week at the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, Kiradech said he has refrained from watching the action on TV.
“I have missed golf but I’ve not watched any of it or searched for golf news. I just wanted to get away from watching as I would miss it even more knowing I’m not there playing,” said Kiradech, whose world ranking has dipped to No. 168.
“I normally play 30-plus weeks a year, so to skip tournaments is a tough thing to do.”
Having turned 31 this week, Kiradech spent his special day with family visiting a temple in Ubon Ratchathani, east of Bangkok. In 2014, he spent a week in a Siamese temple where he learnt the ways of a monk, which included shaving his head and eyebrow, waking up at 4.30 a.m., meditating and walking bare feet for kilometres to gather food for village folks.
“It’s a Thai culture, something that we do on our birthdays whenever we can to seek blessings from the monks,” he said. “I pray that I’ll come back strong. I believe I can win on the PGA TOUR when I get back out there and I also want to move back into the world’s top-50.”
Jeev Milkha Singh, India’s most decorated golfer, is handling lockdown – caused by the coronavirus pandemic – with the same mental fortitude that has seen him achieve so much success in the game.
“I took something positive out of it [lockdown],” says Singh, who has been at home in Chandigarh, in Northern India, with his family since mid-March.
“I said it is time for me to work on my mental side, time for me to work on my yoga, time for me to spend time with my family, with my son, and with my parents – who are getting old. My dad is about 90 and my mum is about 85.
“Instead of getting down on myself and saying ‘what is this? I can’t go out’, you have to look at the positives, it has happened, you have to respect it, you have to be a responsible citizen, a responsible human being, and now we need to maintain what needs to be done: social distancing, stay at home, and enjoy time with your family.”
After playing in the Bandar Malaysia Open in March he was supposed to fly to Thailand but the event there was postponed, so he flew to Dubai to practice. But he soon realized that India was going into lockdown and he rushed home to be with his family.
He says: “The good part is that after so many years – I have been a pro for 26 years – I haven’t spent time like this at home. The first two and a half months when you could not go out anywhere was very tough because I was so used to travelling and playing events.”
With lockdown restrictions eased about a month ago he has been able to play golf and not surprisingly says his game is “quite rusty”.
While very aware that it could be a while before his next tournament, he has his sights set firmly on a new, more ‘mature’, phase of his career next year.
“I am looking forward to the Senior tour,” says the two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, who turns 50 in December next year.
“Next year onwards I am a senior, I’m gonna be a little kid in a candy store. I am going to do the qualifying for the Champions Tour next year, in October. I should be exempt in Europe, and Japan because I won four times.
“People ask me if I am looking forward to the Senior tour – I say no, I am looking forward to my pension fund!”
And while playing at the highest level is still an objective, he does have many other responsibilities in the game – including being the host of his own tournament: the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by TAKE. Played at Chandigarh Golf Club, he first became involved with the event two years ago.
“Hopefully this year we should have it. It’s on the local Indian Tour, but it all depends with the situation. Each day things keep changing.”
He is extremely proud that the first two editions of the tournament went into extra-time, drew strong galleries and received great reviews.
But success is something that Singh is no stranger to and we can expect more accomplishments when he takes on the legends in the Senior’s game in the not too distant future.
July 20: Korea’s Soomin Lee emerged victorious on home soil when he won the KPGA Open with SOLLAGO CC on Sunday.
Lee, along with compatriots Hanbyeol Kim and Minkyu Kim, headed into a three-way play-off at the end of regulation play after the trio had secured 50 points in the modified stableford tournament.
Hanbyeol bowed out after making a par in the first play-off hole while Minkyu and Lee extended the contest to the second play-off hole where Lee prevailed with a birdie.
“It was a very challenging day as the winds were very strong. But I’m glad I managed to get the job done and this win is dedicated to my wife-to-be,” said Lee, who revealed he will be getting married later this year.
Lee turned professional in 2014 and came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2015, capping two top-three results to finish in 29th place on the Order of Merit in his rookie season.
Although he secured his first European win in China in 2016, Lee has yet to win on the Asian Tour, coming close at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open and Maybank Championship in 2015 and 2016 respectively where he finished runner-up
Jazz Janewattananond will tee off in one of the biggest tournaments in the world today: Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, on the PGA Tour.
He starts at 1.39pm in Ohio, while, much to the delight of the global golfing community, American Tiger Woods – the winner of 15 Majors and five Memorials – is also competing and making his first appearance since coronavirus led to global confinement.
It is a great day for Thailand’s bright and boyish star but today was supposed to be the day when he teed off in, arguably, THE biggest tournament in the game: The Open Championship.
He was exempt for golf’s eldest Major championship as a result of winning, quite emphatically, last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has turned the golfing world on its head and it was on April 6, that The R&A announced The Open – due to be played at Royal St George’s Golf Club – was cancelled.
Their statement read: “The Open was due to be played in Kent from July 12-19 but it has been necessary to cancel the Championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and The R&A’s advisers. This is the first time since the Second World War that golf’s original Championship, first played in 1860, has been cancelled.”
It went on to explain that The 149th Open will be played at Royal St George’s from July 15-18, 2021, and The 150th Open will be played at St Andrews from July 14-17, 2022.
“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in The Open,” said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.
“We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.”
In fact, eight members of the Asian Tour were due to be on-the-tee today at Royal St George’s in one of the biggest days of their careers.
In addition to Jazz the four players who qualified via the SMBC Singapore Open in January would have been there now: Joohyung Kim of Korea, Poom Saksansin of Thailand, Canada’s Richard T. Lee and Ryosuke Kinoshita of Japan.
South Africans Shaun Norris as well as Justin Harding and Kurt Kitayama from the United States were also exempt – the result of being ranked in the first 30 in the Final Race to Dubai Rankings last year.
These eight players will remain eligible for entry into the Championship at Royal St George’s in 2021. All exemptions, which had been awarded up until the cancellation on April 6, 2020, will be honoured.
Jazz played in The Open in 2018 and 2019 – both times thanks to the SMBC Singapore Open being part of The Open Qualifying Series: he finished equal fourth in 2018 and won the prestigious event in 2019. That was one of four pulsating victories last year along with the Kolon Korea Open, the BNI Indonesian Masters and the Thailand Masters.
He missed the cut both times in The Open but after playing at Royal Portrush last year, he said: “I still need to make lots of improvements to become a world class player but I believe I still have a chance to be up there.”
Jazz’s two-day total of five-over-par 147, after rounds of 74 and 73, meant he was four short of the cutline.
“It has been a good learning experience. I have made it to The Open twice already and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my game,” he added.
“I got better with my driving this year but my short game is still not quite there yet. Hopefully I can come back here stronger and play better next year.”
Kim, Lee, Poom and Kinoshita would have been making their debuts at The Open this week and, in particular, all eyes would have been on the Korean kid who has become the region’s new great hope.
The teenage-titan, who turned professional in 2018, has taken the game by storm in Asia in lightning-fast time.
In the second half of last year he won three times on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) – in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan – to earn a direct promotion to the Asian Tour in 2019.
He then took another giant leap forward and claimed the Panasonic Open India on the Tour in November to become the second youngest professional player to win on the circuit at 17 years and 149 days old.
And last weekend, seemingly unaffected by the long lay-off, he sensationally triumphed in the KPGA Gunsan Country Club Open on the Korean Tour at the tender age of 18.
It was his first victory on home soil and came a week after he lost in a play-off on that circuit.
He is now the youngest winner on the Korean Tour.
Today he tees off in another Korean Tour event, the PGA Open with Sollago Country Club – a rather different golfing landscape from Royal St George’s links golf course but one that will again face the full force of his youthful exuberance.
Royal St George’s would have been hosting The Open for the 14th occasion and it is the only Open golf course to be located in Southern England.
The last time it was played there, in 2011, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke prevailed.
Asia’s dreams of seeing one of its’ players lift ‘The Claret Jug’ and surpass the achievements of a certain Taiwanese legend and a young Chinese golfer are on hold.
Chinese Taipei’s Lu Liang-huan – better-known as ‘Mr Lu’- famously finished second in 1971, behind Lee Trevino of the United States, in what was the 100th staging of The Open. It remains as the best finish by a player from this region in The Open.
And, Haotong Li from China came close to matching that in 2017 when he stormed to third place at Royal Birkdale Golf Club – where American Jordan Spieth overcame his compatriot Matt ‘Kooch’ Kuchar.
It is a target for all members of the Asian Tour.
This year’s edition would have been underway now although with overcast weather conditions forecast in Kent today – in the true spirit of an English summertime – perhaps it’s a good thing that Jazz is in Ohio and Kim is in Korea, for the moment.
Tamsui, Chinese Taipei, July 15: The long-standing Mercuries Taiwan Masters, originally scheduled to tee off at the Taiwan Golf and Country Club from September 17-20, will be cancelled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to cancel the Mercuries Taiwan Masters was based on health and safety concerns as well as international travel restrictions on players living outside Chinese Taipei. The tournament will now be staged in 2021 in its traditional time slot.
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters was inaugurated in 1987 and has been held annually on the Asian Tour from 2004.
It was announced earlier this year that the total prize purse for the Mercuries Taiwan Masters will be increased to US$950,000 from US$900,000. It enjoyed a US$50,000 increase to US$850,000 in 2018, before another US$50,000 increase in 2019 took its prize purse to US$900,000 then.
Last year, Thailand’s Suradit Yongcharoenchai clinched his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters with a one-shot victory while local veteran Lu Wen-teh remains the only champion to have successfully defended his title in 2008.
Lu also holds the record of most wins in the event with four in 1994, 1996, 2007 and 2008.
On this day eight years ago Jeev Milkha Singh claimed an exceptional victory in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, in brutal weather – the likes of which he had never before experienced playing in a tournament. From his home in Chandigarh, India – where he has been since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic – he talked to Simon Wilson about that special July 15th when, once again in his career, he made history.
Jeev Milkha Singh’s historic victory in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in 2012 was a dream story for the many media gathered there to cover the prestigious event – which was being played at Castle Stuart Golf Links for only the second time.
There were a wealth of great angles and strong story lines to work with, especially when India’s golfing talisman said that while he was waiting in the clubhouse to see if he was going to make it into a play-off: “I was just enjoying a cup of tea and some chocolate cake and watching it on television, and suddenly got excited.”
The cake angle was widely used in most of the coverage and Singh certainly ‘had his cake and ate it’, and enjoyed ‘the icing on the cake’.
But, the win certainly wasn’t a ‘piece of cake’.
For while it was a dream narrative for the press, the victory went beyond Singh’s wildest dreams in the wildest weather he had ever played in.
“Let me tell you, it was one of the toughest days you could have played golf in,” says Singh about the final day.
“It was cold and windy and there was rain. There were all three coming together. I didn’t have any sensation in my hands because it was so cold. At times there was torrential rain, and the wind was blowing right to left at about 30 or 40 mph.
“I remember the rain. After I had put the umbrella down to hit shots it was like somebody was putting a needle in your face.”
The weather was one thing, his position on the leaderboard another.
He started that Sunday five shots off the lead, which was held by Italian Francesco Molinari – the leader after each of the first three days.
Defending champion Luke Donald from England was in the hunt, as was American Phil Mickelson, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Swede Henrik Stenson, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and many other household names.
The tournament, boasting total prizemoney of €3,136,252 (approx. US$ 3,542,394), was being played a week before The Open and drew a stellar field.
So Singh had his work cut out, but with three European Tour victories, five Asian Tour wins, four Japan Tour successes and two Asian Tour Order of Merit titles already under his belt, his illustrious rivals should have been more prepared with what was about to happen.
The weather had been fine for the first three days but as Singh explains there was a paradigm shift in the elements for the fourth and final round, even though this was summer time.
“On the first hole at Castle Stuart [a 439-yard par-four] for the first three days I hit a three wood or a rescue [off the tee] and then a wedge or a nine iron in. But on that last day I hit a driver and a three iron and that three iron did not go more than 15-feet high and landed about two-feet from the cup. That was an amazing start!” says the Indian star, who was paired with Spaniard Ignacio Garrido at 11.36am – 10 groups and 35 minutes behind the last group consisting of Molinari and Denmark’s Anders Hansen.
He birdied four out of the first six holes, made another birdie on number 10 and then he parred his way in to card a five-under 67 and set a clubhouse lead of 17 under par – a super-human effort in such conditions, especially to not drop a shot.
Says Singh: “By the 13th or 14th hole it was suddenly nice and sunny but still a lot of wind. No rain. On the 16th [a 337-yard par-four] I hit my driver onto the green. And that’s when I looked at the leaderboard, and said ‘man, I’m two short, I might as well eagle this so I can put a score on the board’. But what I do is three putt that hole to make par.”
On the 18th, a majestic and mighty-long par-five measuring 607 yards, he put himself in perfect position to make a four – and really put the cat amongst the pigeons on the leaderboard – but he missed his 12 footer.
“I was interviewed after the round by the media and, like I said to Amritinder [Singh] my coach and Janet [Squire] my caddie, I thought I was going to be one or two short,” says Singh.
“And, I said I am going to go in the lounge, warm myself up, have a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate cake. And Janet went into the locker room to get my bag ready to pack up, but as I am sitting there in the lounge, with my tea and cake, the field came back and I suddenly find I am going in for a playoff!”
That unrelenting wind which had tested Singh so much also played havoc with the leaders – Scotland’s Marc Warren, Swede Alex Noren and Molinari – and he watched them, one by one, as they came up the 18th trying, unsuccessfully, to overtake him.
Home-hero Warren had been well placed to secure a fantastic win in front of fiercely patriotic local support and after birdieing 10, 11 and 12 he had a three-shot lead. But he made a double on 15 and then two bogeys. He needed to birdie the last to match Singh but missed a 25 footer.
Said Warren later: “I might need a little help to get to sleep tonight.”
One down, two to go for Singh.
Noren was equally gutted minutes earlier as he had taken a bogey six at the last, where he agonizingly missed a three-foot par putt to draw level with the Indian gentleman sitting in the clubhouse enjoying his tea and cake.
And so it came down to Molinari requiring a closing birdie to win and emulate his brother Edoardo, winner of the title two years before.
But he left himself having to hole a par putt from nine feet to keep his title hopes alive, which he duly made.
“And then I go to the range,” says Singh.
“I hit 10 balls precisely, then straight onto the 18th tee [for the play-off]. I hit a perfect drive down the left-hand side, and a perfect second shot with a three iron to lay up – there is a big swale there and I didn’t want to get into that, as I wouldn’t be able to see the flag so I kept it on the top layer. Then I hit a beautiful punched eight iron which I brought in with the wind to exactly 12 feet. And, I just said make sure you get this to the hole … I got it the hole, it was in the hole.”
The impressive birdie saw him claim the title and become the first Indian to win Scotland’s national Open.
“There was an amazing crowd there and the etiquette of the Scottish fans was amazing,” says Singh.
“It is one of the best wins of my career, it’s the home of golf [Scotland], that’s were golf started and winning the national championship there, coming from India were I never played links golf, in my life, and winning in those conditions, I was very proud of myself and felt really happy.”
In fact, it is arguably his finest win, but as he explains: “My best win would be the Scottish Open, but then there is also the Volvo Masters [in 2006]. It is a close match because both are very good tournaments to win, it is tough to decide which one is really better. Both were so good.”
The victory also secured him a place in the field for the following week’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes – where in only his second appearance at The Open he finished joint 69th, a fine effort after the exertions of Castle Stuart.
The win was also Singh’s fourth victory on the European Tour and moved him ahead of Arjun Atwal [a three-time European Tour winner] making him the most successful Indian golfer in European Tour history – which is still the case today, along with S.S.P. Chawrasia.
And he earned a winner’s cheque for €518,045 (approx. US$585,126) – a significant sum although not as sizeable as his most lucrative win, which was the US$795,500 he received for claiming the 2008 Singapore Open – which virtually assured him of the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
“I was playing well before the event but I could not get all four rounds together but that week I got everything together. At the end of the day, for every golfer, the most important thing is for the ‘belief system’ to kick in. I don’t know what happened that week but the believe system was so good,” says Singh.
Clearly, Singh’s win in Scotland was a dream come true for him and eight years on that memorable victory in the northernmost city of the United Kingdom is still very clear and present and still tastes as sweet as that clubhouse chocolate cake.