As 2020 draws to a close, let us look back at an unprecedented year which saw us kickstart the season on a high note, celebrating four worthy winners in four different countries, along with another successful staging of the Qualifying School. And while the COVID-19 pandemic forced an abrupt suspension to the Asian Tour in March, our members still excelled in other tournaments around the globe throughout the year.
A galaxy of stars, including 30 Tour champions, lighted up the new 2020 season at the Hong Kong Open in January. American Tony Finau made his debut appearance while Major champion Shane Lowry from Ireland returned to the prestigious tournament for the first time in 10 years.
Australian Wade Ormsby sealed the deal after cruising to a final round four-under-par 66 to win by four shots at the Hong Kong Golf Club. It was his second Hong Kong Open title and third victory on the Asian Tour. Ormsby also became the second wire-to-wire winner in the storied event following England’s Aaron Rai in 2018.
The week after, we celebrated another worthy champion in Matt Kuchar – who put up an inspirational performance to win the SMBC Singapore Open in what was his first attempt. The American overcame a calamitous triple-bogey on the seventh hole by charging back with three birdies to win by three shots at Sentosa Golf Club.
Former world number one Justin Rose of England finished in second place while 2019 winner and reigning Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand took outright third at the US$1 million event – sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
Korea’s Joohyung Kim came home in fourth place to claim one of the four tickets available to The Open at Royal St. George’s – which was postponed later in the year due to COVID-19. The other three spots went to Canada’s Richard T. Lee, Thailand’s Poom Saksansin and Japan’s Ryosuke Kinoshita.
The 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School attracted a total of 458 entries from 37 countries across the globe. Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith finished top of the class with a one-shot victory in the final stage held at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club.
It was his third straight attempt at the Qualifying School and the then 23-year-old had led the grueling 90-hole battle from the second round. 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.
Other notable graduates include Filipino veteran Antonio Lascuna, Korean hotshot Bio Kim, as well as former Asian Tour champions Malcolm Kokocinski of Sweden, Scott Strange of Australia, Natipong Srithong of Thailand and Masanori Kobayashi of Japan.
Australia’s Brad Kennedy held aloft the New Zealand Open trophy for the second time since 2011 after closing with a stunning eight-under-par 63 to win by two shots at the picturesque Millbrook Resort.
“I had always said 2020 was my last year. I’ve been playing 25 years on Tour and it was time to get home and spend some more time with my kids and wife. Who knows now? If I can still do it at 45 then I don’t know what’s going to happen, “said Kennedy following his victory.
Korea’s Joohyung Kim, who had led after the first three rounds, settled for fourth place after signing off with a 70. Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert capped his best result in three outings to the New Zealand Open following an 11th place finish.
In March, American Trevor Simsby picked up his first Asian Tour title after emerging triumphant on the second play-off hole against Andrew Dodt of Australia at the weather shortened event held at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club, which is now an Asian Tour Destination.
Simsby, a graduate from the University of Washington where he played alongside PGA TOUR champion C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei, was thrilled to claim his career biggest win yet in only his 12th start on the Asian Tour and first this season at the Malaysian showpiece.
The Bandar Malaysia Open, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, was reduced to 54 holes by officials following several weather delays. It returned to the Asian Tour schedule after a four-year absence.
Asian Tour members excel internationally
The sports world faced unprecedented upheaval later in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the PGA TOUR and European Tour resumed their seasons in June and July respectively and the other domestic Tours in the region gradually restarted, our players made the most of their limited playing opportunities to cap an unforgettable year.
In July, Joohyung Kim from Korea won the KPGA Gunsan CC Open for his first victory on home soil, a week after losing in a play-off. The victory saw him break into the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) – thereby earning a coveted spot in the PGA Championship, where he made his Major debut the following month.
The same week, American David Lipsky, the Asian Tour’s number one in 2014, recorded his first win on the Korn Ferry Tour at the TPC San Antonio Challenge while Thai veteran Thaworn Wiratchant, at 53 years old, proved age is just a number when he emerged triumphant at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation event held on the All Thailand Golf Tour.
Also that week, Japan’s Naoki Sekito clinched a home victory at Golf Partner with JGTO Exhibition Tournament. The 2019 Asian Development Tour Order of Merit champion posted rounds of 65 and 61 for a two-shot victory over compatriot Shotaro Wada.
Korea’s Soomin Lee emerged victorious on home soil the following week when he won the KPGA Open with SOLLAGO CC. Lee had prevailed with a birdie on the second play-off hole against compatriot Minkyu Kim in the modified stableford tournament.
In August, Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul clinched back-to-back titles on the Thai PGA Tour following a play-off victory at the Singha-SAT Nakhon Nayok Classic. This followed his win in the Singha-SAT Hua Hin Championship.
“For the first time in my life, I have won back-to-back on a Tour!” said Gunn, who became a first-time dad earlier in January. “This is also the first time that I fought my way back to win. It will benefit me in terms of mental toughness from now on.”
Soon after that, Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand won the Singha-SAT Prachinburi Championship, also on the Thai PGA Tour. The two-time Asian Tour champion had earlier claimed an unprecedented seventh title on the Asian Development Tour at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship in January.
A week later, another Thai star Prom Meesawat won the Singha Pattaya Open for a record fourth time on the All Thailand Golf Tour. Prom aced the 17th hole en route to a closing 63 and a five-shot victory at the Burapha Golf & Resport in Chon Buri.
Another record was set in Korea later that month when Taehee Lee became the first player to successfully defend his title in the 39-year history of the GS Caltex Maekyung Open. He had closed with a second straight three-under-par 67 to win by one shot at the Elysian Gangchon Country Club.
Lee, who claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Maekyung Open in May 2019, 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.
In September, American John Catlin became the talk of the town when he won twice in the space of three weeks on the European Tour – first at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters in Spain and then the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Catlin, a four-time winner on the Asian Tour, propelled to a career-high 84th place on the OWGR following his victory in Ireland and would eventually end the year in 99th place, sitting inside top-100 for the first time since turning professional in 2013.
Also in September, Thailand’s Suradit Yongcharoenchai outlasted countryman Panuphol Pittayarat to win the Singha-SAT Kanchanaburi Championship on the Thai PGA Tour after a dramatic seven-hole playoff at the Blue Sapphire Golf and Resort.
And Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, who enjoyed a top-five finish at the Bandar Malaysia Open in March, won the JGTO Fujisankei Classic for the second time in his career and broke into world’s top 100 following his win.
The week after, Joohyung Kim made his regular PGA Tour debut at the Safeway Open and came in tied-67th and Hanbyeol Kim capped back-to-back victories on the Korean PGA Tour after winning the prestigious Shinhan Donghae Open.
Big-hitter Wang Wei hsuan became the youngest Taiwanese to win the storied Mercuries Taiwan Masters. The 22-year-old won by three shots in the long-running event which was sanctioned solely by the Taiwan PGA this year due to the pandemic.
Ratchapol Jantavara of Thailand, who narrowly missed out on getting his full Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School earlier this year, capped off an action-packed September by claiming his long-awaited first professional victory in 10 years at Singha All Thailand Masters.
In October, Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit claimed a one-shot victory at the All Thailand Golf Tour’s season-ending Singha Laguna Phuket Open, a popular event which was previously held annually on the Asian Development Tour.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond enjoyed a dream start to his Masters debut, thanks to an opening three-under-par 69 at the Augusta National Golf Club. Jazz was one over after bogeys on 11 and 12 but stormed home making four birdies on his final six holes.
The 2020 Masters Tournament, which was supposed to take place in April as the year’s opening Major, had been rescheduled to November 9th-16th due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Panuphol Pittayarat was another Thai who tasted success in 2020, winning the Singha-SAT Kanchanaburi Classic for his second victory on the Thailand PGA Tour and first since 2013.
This December, we celebrated three more victories of our players in their respective home countries with Hung Chien-yao winning the Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei, Rattanon Wannasrichan regaining his winning form at the Singha-SAT Khon Kaen Championship in Thailand and India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar claiming the TATA Steel Tour Championship for his 10th victory and first in nine years on the PGTI Tour.
It has been an extraordinary year and despite the challenges, it was heartening and inspiring to see a handful of our members continuing to find success on the golfing stage – something which will serve them well when the Asian Tour returns.
“I missing playing in international tournaments and I haven’t met my foreign friends for a while,” said Sadom.
“However, I have been competing in more golf tournaments in Thailand and I have more time to practice and improve my shots.”
The rising star claimed the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open in Bangladesh in April last year – two months after winning the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation event on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
His success in Bangladesh meant he became the fastest Qualifying School graduate to win on the Asian Tour. He had successfully negotiated the Qualifying School at the end of 2018 and the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open was his first event as a professional on the Asian Tour.
The record was previously held by Australian duo Kane Webber and Todd Sinnott who won in their second starts after coming through the Qualifying School in 2006 and 2017 respectively.
“My performance during the year was okay. During this time, I have been trying to make my body stronger and I have been training to get more driving distance,” said Sadom, who shot to fame in 2017 when he triumphed in the Singha Pattaya Open on the All Thailand Golf Tour as an amateur.
He enjoyed a stellar amateur career and was ranked as high as 10th on the Official World Amateur Rankings. His amateur wins include the Malaysian Amateur Open and All Indian Amateur, both in 2017, and the 2018 Dutch International Junior Open.
“Next year, I aim to play mainly on the Asian Tour and I hope to finish in a good position on the Order of Merit. I will also play on Thailand’s tours, where I hope to win at least once.”
The 22 year old chose to spend much of this year in his home town in the south of Thailand.
He adds: “I have done many activities with friends that I haven’t done for a long time such as playing football. I like football and I was a football player when I was young, but when I started playing golf, I didn’t have time to play football. Also, I had more time to learn how to cook and I have spent more time with my family.”
“I would like to say Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. May everyone be happy, healthy and safe from COVID-19. Please don’t forget to wash your hands often!”
Myanmar’s Kyi Hla Han and Zaw Moe, past winners of Singapore’s National Open, enjoyed the privilege of playing the newly-renovated Serapong course at Sentosa Golf Club last week and as expected, they were full of praise for the famous layout.
Han, a former Asian Tour number one and winner of the Singapore Open in 1994, and Moe – the 1997 Singapore Open champion – were invited by the club to play the course during its soft opening.
They were joined in their group by Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner & Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Tour, and Australian Unho Park – a 20-year veteran of the Tour, who is now a key part of its’ administrative team.
The Serapong, voted by the players on the Asian Tour as the ‘Best Golf Course on Tour’ last year, had been closed since March as it underwent extensive renovations.
The soft opening was held on Friday and saw all the members of staff who worked on the course get to play it for the first time before the official opening on Saturday.
Changes have been made to the bunkers – which now have creative, artistic serrated edges – fairways, and tee boxes.
“The renovations are great!” said Han, a former Commissioner of the Asian Tour.
“The fairways and greens are fantastic, and the bunkers are also excellent. There was a course I was working on in Mandalay, in Myanmar, which has classic bunkers with rough edges which give the course a more classic look. So the changes to the bunkers here at Sentosa are similar – I think it is a wonderful design element, and something that appeals to me as a course designer, the more classic, older look.
“The Serapong has always stood up so well to the players in the Singapore Open – the scores are not too low. It is a tough course from the back tees. It is playing too long for me now! I need to play a shorter course.”
Zaw was equally impressed.
“The course looks fantastic. The fairways are really good, they have just one type of grass, as opposed to different types,” said Zaw, who played with great success on both the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization.
“For me the course looks the same but it is the condition that is really noticeable. The course looks neat and extremely well presented as always. And of course you can really see the new shaping around the bunkers – very distinctive.”
The Asian Tour is headquartered at Sentosa Golf Club, so Cho was also delighted to have the chance to play the course.
“The Serapong has always been one of the highest acclaimed courses on the Asian Tour. They [Sentosa] have really outdone themselves in what they have done to the course over the last nine months,” said Cho.
“The condition of the golf course is excellent. They have made the bunkers a bit trickier, the sand is great, the fairways are looking immaculate, and the greens are rolling great so there’s not much more we can ask for.
“There is no real one thing that stands out. I feel it’s one of those courses that doesn’t have a signature hole because the whole golf course is memorable, and the finer details have been done really well.
“It is remarkable for the members to give up their golf course during this pandemic period where a lot of people were actually playing golf, it’s incredible they could have the patience and the foresight to do that. It is going to pay dividends in the long run.”
Sentosa Golf Club has today officially reopened its world-class state-of-the-art championship course, The Serapong, after it underwent an extensive renovation in March to maintain its immaculate conditioning and playing standards.
The renovations are headlined by a new bunkering style with creative, artistic serrated edges to enhance The Serapong’s character and overall strategy, whilst elevating the course to a new level on the world stage. The club used 6,000 tonnes of new sand during the renovations to reinstate consistency, texture and tournament ready compaction for improved playability.
Modifications have also helped to enhance and preserve the personality of many of The Serapong’s iconic holes, including the signature 5th hole, which overlooks metropolitan Singapore and its bustling port.
Masterminded by Andrew Johnston, the club’s General Manager, Director of Agronomy and resident Golf Course Designer, The Serapong has been closed since March and, alongside the new bunkering, a number of other key course upgrades were implemented during that time.
These included the re-grassing of fairways, rejuvenating them with minor grading adjustments and improved drainage strategies, as well as modifying the greens soil profile by introducing new carbon technology to boost soil chemistry and profile structure.
Enhancements to the greens are set to make The Serapong’s putting surfaces even better, which is hard to believe given the wide acclaim they already receive from its members, guests and visiting Tour Professionals.
Finally, the renovations also paid close attention to the re-levelling of all tee boxes, reinstating them with the historic tabletop flat finish The Serapong is renowned for. It will enable the club to continue to maintain the tees at a super low mowing height of 3mm, improving the quality of the playing experience for members and guests.
Speaking ahead of The Serapong’s reopening, which is a soft launch ahead of a grand reopening next March, Andrew Johnston said: “The last time The Serapong was renovated was nearly 14 years ago and since then the course has grown to become one of the world’s best, picking up multiple accolades in the process. Despite the challenges presented by the worldwide pandemic, we have found a way to pull the Sentosa family together within the safe working restrictions to complete the works. This has been a very exciting project that was well overdue, and we are confident the changes implemented will only enhance the golfing experience for our members and guests.
“Being located in a sub-tropical climate means the golf course ages faster than an ordinary one, and these renovations are crucial to maintaining the quality of the playing surfaces, as well as the conditions and high-standards that we pride ourselves on here at Sentosa, 365 days of the year.”
Dominic Wall – Director – Asia-Pacific at The R&A, commented: “The newly renovated Serapong looks great, and continues to showcase why Sentosa Golf Club is one of the world’s leading golfing venues. It is fantastic to see that, throughout the entire process of the renovations, the project continued to align with the club’s ground-breaking sustainability agenda. With our Asia-Pacific headquarters located at the club, we look forward to seeing Sentosa’s members and guests back out on the fairways taking on The Serapong’s unique challenge.”
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner & Chief Executive Officer at The Asian Tour, added: “The renovations undertaken on The Serapong by the team at Sentosa have been nothing short of breath-taking. The renovations have enabled The Serapong to retain its unique personality and characteristics that made it one of the world’s top golf courses, as well as the best golf course in Singapore. With the course now reopening to members, we are looking forward to welcoming back Asia’s best players next year to battle it out at the SMBC Singapore Open.”
The Serapong was originally designed by the world-famous golf course design firm Golf Plan and Ronald Fream, opening in 1982. The course was further renovated in 2006 by the Bates Golf Design Group, who were led at the time by their VP of Design and Construction, Andrew Johnston, and whose designs have seen the course’s trademark contours, extended stone-lined lakes and breath-taking Singapore harbour backdrop become renowned across the world.
It was recently voted ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the second year in a row at the World Golf Awards back in October and finds itself regularly listed as one of the world’s greatest golf courses.
The Serapong has played host to the Singapore Open since 2005 (initially Barclays Singapore Open, then SMBC Singapore Open from 2015), welcoming some of the world’s finest players such as 2005, 2006 and 2010 winner Adam Scott, 2018 winner Sergio Garcia and rising Asian star Jazz Janewattananond, who captured the title in 2019.
The 2020 edition was one of the most memorable in history with all three of Rio’s 2016 Olympic medalists, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar in attendance. Kuchar eventually took the title finishing on 18 under par to beat Justin Rose by three.
While excelling on the golf team at Abilene Christian University in the United States he felt the call of the professional game but needed clearance from family HQ back in his hometown of Chandigarh, in India.
“Had to make a big call; picked up the phone and spoke to my parents,” says the Indian star, who turns 49 today.
“My dad said: ‘you know what, please go ahead, but don’t come back to me after five or 10 years and tell me you want to do something else’. They obviously gave me the right guidance.”
It was a wise move by Singh seeing as his father, Milkha Singh, is arguably India’s greatest sprinter and his mother, Nirmal Kaur, a former captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team.
“Actually we wanted to make him a doctor,” says Milkha Singh.
“He said: ‘no I want to play golf’. [I said] If you want to play golf then you have to work day and night. I want to see you number one in the world!”
While the young Singh didn’t quite reach that target he more than justified his decision to turn professional by winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit title twice, claiming five titles on the Asian Tour, and four on both the European Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization.
Singh was introduced to the game of golf at the age of nine by his father and later earned a golf scholarship in America after representing the Indian national team.
He says: “My inspiration growing up was my father. Lots of people in India said: ‘you come from the Milkha family, you have a lot of pressure’.”
He turned professional in 1993, never looked back and became the flag bearer for Indian golf.
“Everybody asked me: ‘hey, do you guys play golf in India?’. I said: ‘yes we do’, and they said: ‘oh, we didn’t know that’. And I said you know what, let’s show them that there are good golfers out of India,” adds Singh.
“But if I played in Italy I needed an Italian visa, or Spain a Spanish visa. And in France I needed one there. Some weeks I had to miss because I couldn’t get a visa in time. But nothing comes easy, you have to take it in your stride.”
He suffered a loss of form mid-way through his career but bounced back by winning the Volvo China Open in 2006.
“I had a fantastic start but then a dip for five or six years. In those five, six years I learned a lot.
I was going through a bad patch. I had not won a tournament from 2000 to 2006, so six years of drought. Golf is a game very close to human life becauase you go through the ups and downs. One week you are the best and the next you don’t even make the cut,” adds Singh.
“Took the plunge in 1993 and loved it ever since!”
As Jeev Milkha Singh celebrates his 49th birthday today, let us look back at his illustrious career, highlighted by five Asian Tour wins and two Asian Tour Order of Merit titles, and find out what made him decide to take the plunge and turn professional in 1993.
Christmas came two weeks early for India’s Shiv Kapur in 2005. On this day, December 11, 15 years ago, he recorded a memorable victory in the Volvo Masters of Asia at Thai Country Club, in Bangkok. It was his first win in the professional game and followed a decorated amateur career. We spoke to Kapur about that breakthrough week, in a tournament which was the season-ending Tour Championship on the Asian Tour – for the elite top-60 players from the final Order of Merit.
For Shiv Kapur, simply making the field for the prestigious Volvo Masters of Asia at Thai Country Club at the very end of 2005 was enough of an achievement.
The then 23-year-old rookie had successfully negotiated the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January and after a slow start to the first half of year he found some momentum, nearly winning the Double A International in Thailand in November.
Another rising star at the time Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil – a 17-year-old amateur – defeated him on the second hole of extra time, but it was an encouraging performance by the young Kapur.
Much was expected of the Indian star-in-the-making who had claimed the gold medal in the Asian Games in 2002 in Busan – amongst a plethora of amateur game achievements.
“I remember going into the week [at the Volvo Masters of Asia] being so pleased to make the Tour Championship in my opening season,” said Kapur, from his home in Dubai last week.
“Retaining my card was my primary goal. I remember I was locked in a race for Rookie of the Year with Andrew Buckle at the time. But I was just happy because back then the Volvo Masters of Asia was the Tour Championship and a goal for all of us to play in.
“I had watched it on TV and seen all my compatriots and friends play in it. I just thought if I can get into that field it would be a great way to end the season. And low and behold I put myself in contention.”
He started well in the event because as he says: “You know honestly, I was like a kid in a candy store, just happy to be there.”
Kapur fired a six-under-par 66 to share the lead on day one with Australia’s Buckle.
Then a 67 saw him hold the halfway lead by a shot from the defending champion Jyoti Randhawa, also from India.
And by the third round Kapur, after a 68, he found himself sharing the lead with Randhawa and Australian Marcus Both: on an impressive 15 under for the tournament.
Kapur was paired in the penultimate group with Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol – as two balls were the order of the week.
“I remember the front nine on Sunday was steady stuff but nothing flash. Thoughts of victory were not really going through my head. I was a couple under through the front nine.
“From what I remember, standing on the 10th tee, I said to myself: “Now look, you have nothing to lose, you have had a great year and a great run, let’s just go for it, have some fun and play more aggressively and see if that is good enough. I wasn’t going to die wondering, I wasn’t playing for second place”.
He started to attack a few more flags, things started to go his way, and he holed a couple of putts.
Said Kapur: “I remember, very vividly, standing on the 18th tee, with a one-shot lead. The only thing I was thinking was good rhythm, good rhythm, on my tee shot. I was just trying to find the fairway. To me it felt like I made a really slow swing but it just came out perfectly up the left side of the fairway with a bit of cut in the middle.
“I was so pumped up on my second shot; I had 170 or 175 yards and back then for me that would have been a six iron and I just told my caddie just give me the seven iron because I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me. I hit the absolute perfect shot 15 feet right of the flag, because it was a back left pin. But I hit it so good, I hit it through the back of the green. And when I got up there I said just two putt this and when I stood over the putt, just as I was about to putt, I thought it will be pretty cool to hole this, but to be fair I was trying to two putt, but it went in!”
He followed that up with a big fist pump, and gave his caddie a massive hug.
“The rest I don’t remember, I remember I had to wait for Jyoti to finish. I remember it showing 20 under on the leaderboard and at the start of the week when we walked into the clubhouse and we saw Tiger Wood’s scoring record [20 under] when he played the Asian Honda Classic in 1997 I thought wow if I can match Tiger on this course then you have done alright.”
Kapur said that although being stress free that week the only thing on his mind was the Rookie of the Year title.
“I knew the only way for me to win that, was to win the tournament. It is just one of those things when it is your week and a lot of things go your way,” added the Indian star.
The victory also opened up many doors for him. It got him into a World Golf Championship (WGC) event, and the Sony Open in Hawaii.
“It was the perfect spring board. In golf, one week can change your life, and literally that was the one week for me I think. And I started to get good pairings after that and in the co sanction events I was paired with the best players in the world. This is what I dreamed of as an amateur.”
Last year Kapur nearly pulled off another victory at Thai Country Club at the Thailand Open but lost to American John Catlin in a play-off.
“Thai Country Club has been my happy hunting ground. If I could pick a course to play every single year it would have to be that,” added Kapur.
There was, however, one blemish to his Volvo Masters of Asia week all those years ago.
He “mislaid” the Rookie of the Year Award on the Sunday night after the end of year Awards ceremony. The champagne was flowing and the celebrations lasted long into the night, so it was an understandable mishap for a young player who had just broken through into the big time – on his way to becoming one of his country’s greatest golfers.
Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand got off to a commendable start after signing for a two-under-par 70 to sit in tied-ninth place at the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship on Thursday.
Jazz, the last man to enter the prestigious event, fired three birdies in his opening five holes and took sole lead with another birdie on 11th before dropping two shots on his way home to fall three shots back of leader Victor Perez of France at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green, 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, soared with an eagle on the second and traded three birdies against three bogeys en route to his 70. Like Jazz, the 26-year-old Green is also making his debut appearance in the DP World Tour Championship.
The 24-year-old Jazz, who entered the final event of the season at 133rd on the 2020 Race to Dubai, was one of four players to qualify for the season-ending tournament from their Official World Golf Ranking, where he sits in a current 79th place.
Jazz enjoyed his best finish on the European Tour this season with a third-place result at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open – which moved him to a high of 11th in the standings.
Green started his season with a tie for 15th at the South African Open and continued to impress in his next four events, where his third place finish at the Saudi International saw him reach a high of 11th in the 2020 Race to Dubai.
He has remained inside the top 50 of the standings for almost the entirety of the season, and while briefly slipping to 43rd, he moved back inside the top 40 following a third top 10 of the year at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown. He enters the week at 42nd in the rankings.
Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura and South African Shaun Norris returned with matching 70s while American John Catlin and Justin Harding of South Africa signed for 75 and 77 respectively.
Sentosa, Singapore, December 9: Four of Asia’s most-exceptional golfing venues – Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club in Malaysia, Laguna Golf Lăng Cô in Vietnam, Sapporo Country Club and The North Country Golf Club, both in Japan – have become part of Asian Tour Destinations.
All four are award-winning venues, with a history of hosting world-class tournaments, and join a select group of members at Asian Tour Destinations – which is an exclusive network of elite golf clubs with direct ties to the Asian Tour.
Earlier this year Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand; Classic Golf & Country Club in New Delhi, India; and Kota Permai Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, became part of the emerging network.
They joined Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore – which was the first golf club to sign-up in 2015.
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said: “Asian Tour Destinations is flourishing and now boasts eight of the finest golf clubs in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asian Tour is delighted to welcome the latest additions to this exclusive membership body.
“The main objective of Asian Tour Destinations is to provide an affiliate membership programme between the associated venues and the Asian Tour – which will drive sustainable growth and development for the betterment of golf in our region as a whole.”
Horizon Hills is one of the great golfing facilities in southern Malaysia and has hosted three Iskandar Johor Opens: Ireland’s Padraig Harrington won the event in 2010, Dutchman Joost Luiten was the winner in 2011, while Spaniard Sergio Garcia triumphed the following year.
“Within a short space of time, since our opening in 2008, Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club has become a household name in the regional golf industry,” said Tang Meng Loon, Director, Club, Townships & Property Management, Horizon Hills.
“It was therefore a logical step for us to become part of Asian Tour Destinations – which is a platform that will allow us to further build our brand in the region and beyond.”
Laguna Lăng Cô Resort boasts the distinction of having Sir Nick Faldo’s first Signature Design open for play and it is the home of the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final – which is hosted by Sir Nick himself every year. The Asian Tour has been a long-time supporter of the Faldo Series, which has helped to grow the game of golf globally. Laguna Lăng Cô is an integrated golf and beach resort and is part of the Banyan Tree Group. It is the first golf course in Vietnam to be Earth Check Gold Certified.
Said Adam Calver, Director of Golf, Laguna Golf Lăng Cô: “Vietnam continues to be at the forefront of golf expansion and development in the region and we are very proud that Laguna Golf Lăng Cô is a contributor in this evolution. We appreciate the work the Asian Tour continues to do to grow the game here and Asian Tour Destinations is a perfect fit for us and supports our resorts future plans and ambitions.”
Sapporo Country Club and The North Country Golf Club, in Hokkaido, are the first golf clubs from Japan to join the Asian Tour Destinations fold.
“This is an exciting development for Sapporo Country Club: to align ourselves with the Asian Tour Destination programme. And to have the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with some of the other premier golfing venues in Asia will prove invaluable,” said Yamazaki Shigeki, President, Sapporo Country Club.
The North Country Golf Club has been the home of The Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup on the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) since 2005.
And their championship course was designed by Japan legend Isao Aoki – the winner of 51 titles on the JGTO and the first player from Japan to win on the PGA Tour, at the Hawaiian Open in 1983
Said Yasuhiro Ota from The North Country Golf Club: “The North Country Golf Club is proud of its long association with The Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup – which demonstrates the club’s desire to connect with the game of golf at the highest level. Our involvement with Asian Tour Destinations provides us with a similar pathway for us to improve and reach the highest standards, operationally and commercially.”
Being a part of the Asian Tour Destinations network means that each venue is certified Tour calibre and operates a comprehensive range of facilities and services to their members and guests under tournament-ready conditions all-year round.
Among the core benefits, Asian Tour members will be able to play and practice at each venue, allowing for the members at each club to enjoy direct engagement with the region’s best golfers.
The R&A confirmed that The 151st Open will be played at Royal Liverpool from July 16-23, 2023 and The 152nd Open will be played at Royal Troon from July 14-21,2024.
The Championships have been rescheduled following the cancellation of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Open will be played at the famous Kent links from 11-18 July 2021.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have been working closely with Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon and the relevant local agencies to reschedule the Championships.
“We are grateful to everyone involved at the clubs and at our partner organisations for supporting our plans and showing flexibility to adapt their own schedules. We can now look forward to seeing the world’s best players competing at these outstanding links courses in 2023 and 2024.”
Michael Johnson, Captain of Royal Liverpool Golf Club, said, “Without doubt the golfing world greatly anticipates the return of The Open after the hiatus of 2020 and Royal Liverpool Golf Club is delighted to fit into the revised schedule alongside our friends at Royal Troon. We must thank The R&A for its continued support and look forward to welcoming competitors and spectators alike to Hoylake in 2023.”
Desmond Bancewicz, Captain of Royal Troon Golf Club, said, “Following the most unusual circumstances this year, affecting all our lives, Royal Troon Golf Club looks forward with eager anticipation in hosting The Open in 2024 for a 10th time and sends their very best wishes to The R&A and Royal St George’s Golf Club for 2021.”
This will be the 13th time the Championship has been staged at Royal Liverpool and the first since Rory McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug there in 2014.
The Open will return to Royal Troon for the 10th time following Henrik Stenson’s memorable final round duel with Phil Mickelson before claiming victory in 2016.