Angelo Que’s golf game is ready to roll, thanks to his “tennis” injury being fixed – although unfortunately, at the moment, playing time is limited.
Held up at home in Manila since March because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, he has endured two lengthy stints of lockdown with no golf; three months from March onwards, and then last month as well.
As with all of the Asian Tour’s top golfers it has been a test of character but there has been a silver lining.
“I have actually enjoyed the rest because before the lockdown and before the end of last year, I had tennis elbow,” says Que.
“It sort of affected the way I played, and at that time I was unable to take the time needed to rest, because there were tournaments to be played and during the Christmas break, we only had two weeks off before we started playing again.
“So the rest has been a big help for my elbow but it is also frustrating because now that I don’t feel pain I want to play, but there are no tournaments.”
Que’s last tournament was the Bandar Malaysia Open in March, where he tied for 31st despite the issue with his elbow.
“Pretty much everyday things caused it [the tennis elbow]. Carrying suit cases, playing a lot of golf. When I had it checked, there was no tear or big injury, it was just normal tennis elbow.
“But tennis elbow doesn’t heal as much as other injuries. It takes months and even if you work on it, it still takes months. You have to strengthen it, I have done a lot of research on it. I was surprised, I thought when it heals it’s done but no! It actually takes months to heal, sometimes years. It doesn’t go away sometimes. So the break was actually a good thing for my elbow.”
He says the local Tour is trying to put together a series of events starting in October. They are aiming to stage six events in a row with players, men and women, being kept in a bubble throughout.
As well as that he is hoping he will be able to play in Japan later in the year if the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) are able to host three or four events in a row, so he could justify the quarantine protocols.
“After the Bandar Malaysia Open in March, the next round that I played was in June. But I am sort of used to not playing that much, especially when I am home for a month, but three months is a bit long. I felt a bit stiff, everything was a bit rusty when I started playing again.
“And then we sort of had another lockdown this month and I have not played since June actually, that’s another two months,” said Que, who has scheduled a practice round this week.
“I am trying to keep busy,” says the 41-year-old.
“Helping the kids with school work, doing groceries and trying to get some rounds in at the same time. The situation back then wasn’t as bad. It was hard to get used to it in the beginning, being in lockdown, not being able to go out, and we couldn’t play golf.
“Right now it’s got better, you can go out and play golf. You can go out and do some groceries and the lines are not so long. Except the new protocol is you have to wear masks, you have to wear face shields.”
His most recent victory was a breakthrough win in Japan two years ago at the TOP Cup Tokai Classic – where Korean Y.E. Yang finished runner-up.
“Winning in Japan, and at my age, is surreal. It is hard to keep up with the young ones right now. You look at the age of the guys dominating on the Tour now, they are in the mid-20s to early 30s, so to keep up with those guys, it is a big deal for me.
“I have been playing in Asia for 18 years, and I have played Japan for six years, so age is a big factor right now. So that win in Japan was very big, especially going against Y.E. Yang. As everybody knows, I love to eat, and the food is great there, and that is why I gained a little bit of weight. I just love the food. If I don’t play well at least I have something to look forward to.”
The Asian Tour, and the JGTO, await to see what a free-swinging and injury-free Que can do when tournaments are up and running once more.
August 24: Korea’s Taehee Lee became the first player to successfully defend his title in the 39-year history of the GS Caltex Maekyung Open when he closed with a second straight three-under-par 67 to win by one shot at the Elysian Gangchon Country Club on Sunday.
Lee, who claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Maekyung Open last May, returned to a new venue for his title defence and successfully retained the trophy with a winning total of 11-under-par 199 in the 54-hole event for his fourth title on his domestic Tour.
The 36-year-old got off to a fast start with three straight birdies in his opening four holes but slipped back with four bogeys against two birdies in his next 10 holes. He bounced back with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 and eventually won after leader Minkyu Cho stumbled with a bogey-bogey finish.
Lee, who finished in a commendable third place on the 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit, takes home a prize purse of US$134,442 and receives four Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points following his victory to break into the world’s top-500.
Over at the ISPS HANDA Wales Open on the European Tour, Malaysia’s Gavin Green continued his fine form to notch a top-10 finish at The Celtic Manor Resort located in the City of Newport, Wales.
Green, the 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, closed with a two-under-par 69 and a three-under-par 281 total to finish five back of winner Romain Langasque of France, marking his second top-10 finish on the European Tour this season.
Sentosa, Singapore, August 20: Officials announced today that the 36th Shinhan Donghae Open will be staged as a domestic KPGA tournament next month due to travel restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Held annually in Korea since 1981, the Shinhan Donghae Open was jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the KPGA in 2016 before becoming the first event in Korea to be tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, KPGA and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) in 2019.
The event has grown from strength to strength over the years, delivering top-notch golfing action and celebrating many worthy champions but the unprecedented global situation has forced officials to take a step back with this difficult but necessary decision.
The Shinhan Donghae Open will continue to provide playing opportunities for Korea-based players and the Asian Tour remains committed by broadcasting the storied event to our international audience via the Asian Tour Media platform, like previous years.
The tournament will return to the highly rated Bear’s Best Cheongna Golf Club in Incheon, Korea, for the fifth consecutive edition from September 10 to 13. The winner will gain playing rights for the remainder of the Asian Tour’s 2020/21 season but prize money earned will not count towards the Order of Merit.
Asian Tour standouts Joohyung Kim, Jeunghun Wang and Yikeun Chang are expected to spearhead the talented field alongside established winners Richard T. Lee of Canada and American Micah Shin in the prestigious event next month.
“We felt this was the best way to proceed given the concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. We are disappointed that we are unable to stage the event as per initial plans, but we know it’s the right decision to make based on the information we have today,” said Yong-byoung Cho, Chairman of the Shinhan Financial Group.
“We will strive for another successful staging of the Shinhan Donghae Open next month. Though the event will not be held in the way that we intended this year, we will continue to work together with the Asian Tour, KPGA and JGTO for future editions,” he added.
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, expressed his appreciation, saying: “I would like to thank the Shinhan Financial Group for continuing their support for Asian golf with the staging of the Shinhan Donghae Open in 2020 amidst turbulent times.”
“The world is experiencing many unprecedented “firsts” in 2020 and the participants and fans, who will be viewing the tournament from their homes, are fortunate that such a high-quality tournament being played,” he added.
August 13: Panuphol Pittayarat would have been forgiven if he had chosen to celebrate his joint fifth-place finish in the Singha-Sat Prachinburi Championship on the Thailand PGA Tour last Sunday in a slightly exaggerated fashion.
Put mildly, it has been a testing year for the 27-year-old and not for all the obvious reasons relating to the menace that is coronavirus.
“I was playing really well and then I got sick in Hong Kong. I got a fever,” said Panuphol, referring to the Hong Kong Open in January – where he was forced to retire after three rounds.
The young man, affectionately known as “Coconut”, is quick to point out it was unrelated to Covid-19.
But the deadly virus, that has sent the world into turmoil, would soon impact him.
“I was home in Bangkok when lockdown first hit,” said Panuphol, speaking from this week’s Singha Pattaya Open.
Like so many of his peers on Tour, he treated the enforced layoff positively.
He adds: “It gave me time to take some time off. I took it in a good way. I spent my time resting basically and doing nothing. I had time to spend with my girlfriend, my family, and with my dog. It gave us some time to rethink, to boost my body.”
To help fill the hours in the day, he rather industriously decided to make and sell ice cream along with his girlfriend and sister.
“It was like a mango yoghurt ice cream. We sold it so that we had something to do, just to friends and family and some of the players tried it. We did pretty well and sold 400 or 500 cups. Any money we made I mostly gave it to my girlfriend and sister. I was really just the wing man,” he says.
It was a period of special downtime time for a golfer who has been a professional since 2009 – he made the transition to the play-for-pay game when he was just 16 years old.
However, when Thailand opened up again after over three months and local tournaments began to reappear on the schedule, Panuphol experienced something unexpected for the first time in his career.
He says: “I basically injured myself by resting and not playing golf during lockdown. My shoulder and back started to hurt badly. I think I did it by doing nothing. I was away from the gym and not doing fitness, not playing golf. I saw a physio, a doctor and chiropractor, I saw everybody, about four people. I tried to get back and recover quickly. I spent a lot of time on recovery. It took me a month to get back on track after lockdown.”
In his first tournament back, the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation in July on the All Thailand Golf Tour, he missed the cut.
“I shot five over on the first day and then missed the cut. I told myself to get it together, so I started to go to the gym and practice. My game then started to get better and better. I got back on track, made the cut in the second and third events and finished in a tie for fifth last week.”
It is a bonus for everyone that Panuphol is up and running again.
Over recent seasons he broke through on the Asian Tour with two magnificent and hugely popular victories: first in the 2017 Indonesian Open and then the Thailand Open in 2018 – the latter win coming on his home course at Thai Country Club.
“I have been on Tour for eight or nine years, and it took me six years before I won. It told me I can win. Those wins made me realize I needed to practice even harder, spend more time on the practice area, on the putting green, fixing my faults, and making myself a better person. Those were the key factors. And since those wins I know I have to start working towards what I do best and do what I have to do,” says the Thai star.
He has also tried his hand on the Japan Golf Tour Organization over the past two years and despite struggling there he is determined to return there when conditions permit.
“The problem in Japan was my tee shot. I wasn’t comfortable. Golf courses in Japan are very narrow and tree-lined. I couldn’t adjust to looking at a straight fairway. Most courses in Asia have a dogleg either, left or right. Hitting bad tee shots effected my game and score. I felt like I was hitting out of bounds every day,” he says.
For now though, and through to the rest of the year, he is focused on playing tournaments on home soil.
“I turned pro when I was 16, but first started playing in pro events when I was 14. It was definitely difficult as a junior coming out and playing with the best in the country. I think I took the right decision, because I learned so much. I have no regrets,” he says.
“I would like to play better, play on a bigger stage, in Japan, in Europe, if possible the PGA Tour. My goal is playing golf at the top level, my every day goal is to make a living out of it, so if I am not then I am not achieving my main goal.”
Greensboro, North Carolina: India’s Anirban Lahiri is feeling like a kid in a candy store and it is for a very good reason.
This week, the 33-year-old will tee up in his first PGA TOUR tournament in five months at the Wyndham Championship due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept him in his home country for an unplanned and extended period of time.
“I’m feeling excited. It’s not something I’ve felt like in a long time,” Lahiri said. “It’s like going back to school after a summer vacation. It’s a good thing.”
In March, he flew home to his native India to feature in his national Open, but the sporting world came to a grinding halt when the COVID-19 pandemic led to countries shutting borders and grounding international travel.
When the PGA TOUR resumed competition in mid-June after a three-month suspension, Lahiri was forced to sit out as he could not return to the United States. The upside though of being home gave him the opportunity to reset and rebuild his game from scratch with long-time coach Vijay Divecha.
“I got to spend six weeks with Vijay which I haven’t done in like five or six years. It’s a big reset and I was able to work continuously with him,” said Lahiri, who has endured a lean spell of form where his last top-10 was at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November 2018.
“We basically disassembled the engine and put everything back together. In the last few years, I’ve only had the opportunity to see Vijay for short periods of time and those were often fixes.
“This time, we have rebuilt from scratch and started with the assumption you don’t know how to play golf and have never held a club. We started with the grip, posture, the basics and fundamentals, and worked our way up. We deleted the good and the bad stuff, and it’s a clean slate. We’ve actually done this a few times previously to give ourselves a reset.”
This week, he will put his game to a test with a third visit to Sedgefield Country Club, a Donald Ross design which was coincidentally the scene where countryman Arjun Atwal secured an historic victory at the 2010 Wyndham Championship, making him the first Indian winner on TOUR.
“I like it as it’s an old school track, tree-lined and you have to shape shots,” said Lahiri, who played all four rounds in 2017 and 2019. “There’s a good mix of lengthy holes and shortish holes. If you get hot, you can make lots of birdies and do a lot of damage.”
Lahiri remains in search of his maiden PGA TOUR title, having finished inside the top 3 on two occasions at the 2016 CIMB Classic and 2017 the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
“I feel good about my game in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. I feel good about playing golf again. If you don’t play well for an extended period, it can work against you,” Lahiri said. “If you put in the good work, which I believe I have, you restart by building the confidence up again and I’m excited about competing.
“I haven’t watched much of the golf since the restart which is a good thing as I would have missed it even more. But now that I’m back in America, I’m ready to go. I’m hungry. I love playing golf and I love competing. I’m ready to get out there and pushing myself,” he added.
The Wyndham Championship is the final event of the Regular Season. The top 125 players from the FedExCup points list will qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, comprising of THE NORTHERN TRUST, BMW Championship and TOUR Championship. The FedExCup winner will win US$15 million, the largest winner’s prize in golf.