Thanks to their current first and second placings, respectively, on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, they will compete in the World Golf Championships at The Concession, at The Concession Golf Club, in Florida, from February 25 to 28.
The US10.5 million event was due to be played in Mexico but logistical challenges, posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, meant the location had to be changed.
The news could not have come a better time for Ormsby, who is in form having produced a fine performance at the weekend in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – the opening event of the season on the European Tour.
He came home in a tie for 12th place and earned a lucrative cheque for €105,430 (approximately US$128,000), for his joint best performance in a Rolex Series event.
Ormsby claimed the Hong Kong Open last January, for the second time in his career, and shot to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
And, Simsby soon joined him near the top of the Merit list by winning the Bandar Malaysian Open in March, before the pandemic brought the season to an abrupt halt.
The American had earned his playing rights for 2020 by finishing in seventh place on the Asian Development Tour rankings, the year before.
This will mark the third time Ormsby has played in a WGC event, while Simsby will be making his debut.
The WGC-Mexico Championship has been hosted in Mexico since 2017. American Patrick Reed claimed the title last year; his compatriot Dustin Johnson triumphed in 2019 and 2017; while another American Phil Mickelson won in 2018.
Organisers of the SMBC Singapore Open announced today that the next edition of the tournament will take place in January 2022. The US$1 million event, jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation, has been traditionally held each January on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club.
“While it is truly a shame that the tournament won’t be held this year, we have been involved in the discussions throughout the planning process and are fully supportive of the difficult decision that has been made by Sportfive. We shall all look forward to the return of the SMBC Singapore Open in 2022,” said Ross Tan, President of the Singapore Golf Association.
“The SMBC Singapore Open is one of Asia’s iconic events and a highlight on the golf calendar. We worked tirelessly with all the various authorities and stakeholders to see how best to deliver a safe and significant tournament for the players and partners. All parties especially SMBC, Singapore Tourism Board and Sentosa Golf Club were extremely supportive of the various operational options that were formulated.” said Patrick Feizal Joyce, Senior Vice President, Golf – APAC, Sportfive.
“Ultimately public health and safety remain the highest priority for us and due to the evolving nature of the COVID19 situation around the world, we felt it would be prudent for us to stay patient and work towards holding the next edition in 2022,” added Joyce.
The 2020 edition of the SMBC Singapore Open took place from January 16-19 on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club. Matt Kuchar, the bronze medallist from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, pulled off a stunning comeback in the final round to win the US$1 million tournament with an 18-under par total, turning the tables on gold medallist Justin Rose who finished second, three shots back at 15-under par.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, and American John Catlin, a double winner in Europe last year, are among a strong contingent of Asian Tour members competing in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship ― the opening event of the season on the European Tour.
They are joined by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Australians Wade Ormsby and Scott Hend, India’s Shubhankar Sharma and Gaganjeet Bhullar, American Kurt Kitayama and South African Justin Harding.
The US$8 million event is being played at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and is a Rolex Series event. The tournament is also the start of the Tour’s “Desert Swing” with events to follow in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
Despite a growing resume, Jazz ― who has claimed six victories on the Asian Tour ― has yet to win a European Tour title.
He spent much of last year competing on the PGA Tour, where he made a fine debut in The Master, finishing in a tie for 51st place.
Catlin, on the other hand, broke through in Europe in 2020, winning his first European Tour title at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters in September before triumphing in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, a few weeks later. The American’s skill set had been honed on the Asian Tour, where he won four titles and two Asian Development Tour trophies.
Between them, the Asian Tour members, teeing off on Thursday, boast 25 European Tour titles: Thongchai has eight, Kiradech four, Hend three, and Kitayama, Ormsby and Sharma two each. Both Bhullar and Harding have claimed one apiece.
Ormsby currently leads the Asian Tour Order of Merit, thanks to his win in the Hong Kong Open last January. But the season was cut short quickly after that, with only four events played, due to the coronas virus pandemic.
England’s Lee Westwood is the defending champion this week. His success last year marked the start of a brilliant year that saw him crowned the Race to Dubai winner in December.
“I’ve always played pretty well in this part of the world,” said Westwood, an eight-time winner on the Asian Tour.
“And, you know, my two best results for the last year were Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the very beginning to the very end of the year. So I’ll be hoping for that again this year.”
A star-studded field is competing this week, including England’s Tommy Fleetwood ― the champion in 2017 and 2018.
Also playing are Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who is the only three-time winner of the event ― he triumphed in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He is one of nine Major champions in the field, alongside Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, American Justin Thomas, Irishmen Padraig Harrington ― the European Ryder Cup Captain ― and Shane Lowry, England’s Justin Rose and Danny Willet, and Swede Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett.
Anirban Lahiri is all set to tee off 2021 at the Waialae Country Club in Hawaii as he tees off at the PGA TOUR‘s Sony Open this week. Hawaii is not new for Lahiri, who has played the event three times before but with very modest results.
Lahiri arrives in Hawaii after a break at home in India following a series of decent results in the fall season, which included his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
In recent months, Lahiri has done well on the Islands – he was tied-sixth at the Dominican Republic and T-11 in Bermuda. So Hawaii and Sony Open could bring in some more good news and results. The results at the end of 2020 meant an improvement in his rankings and that translated into at least three or four straight weeks of action.
Lahiri is excited about the Sony Open and said, “The schedule so far is looking good. At the moment, I should get into the first four (events) starting with Sony Open, then the American Express and then Torrey Pines, and hopefully (Waste Management Open) Phoenix. Phoenix might be touch and go, but I think it’s the same week as Saudi (European Tour) so I think I should get in.”
He added, “So yeah, I could actually continue playing but I think as of now, I’m planning on just playing the first four and let us see how it goes. I am feeling good with the game. And I would love to do well in Hawaii.”
The year 2020 was unlike none before in his life and it was the same. His form dipped and there were not enough tournaments, but the silver lining was that the status he had for 2020 was retained as per PGA Tour’s decision. “That was a big boost for many of us,” he said.
A truncated 2020 saw him miss four cuts in first six starts before the Tour was halted in the wake of a pandemic. Lahiri, who had come to India to play the Hero Indian Open in March 2020, was forced to stay on in India as flights out were stopped.
He laughs and says, ”It was tough for my golf, but not all that bad, because I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which I normally don’t get. Also I managed to get a lot of time with my coach, Vijay Divecha and work on my game and that helped.”
Lahiri returned to US, but got only one more event before the 2019-20 season got over for him. Then came the Fall season and things turned for the better.
Starting with the Safeway Open he got in four starts and made cuts in all including T-6 in the Dominican Republic and T-11 in Bermuda. “Those and a couple of other results indicated the game was in a good place. Then came another trip to India.”
He added, “The (second) trip to India was good. I didn’t spend that much time with Vijay, but we kind of went over everything that we had done earlier and kind of consolidated, some of the work. Also, it was nice to play some tournaments Chandigarh and Jamshedpur (on the Indian Tour).”
Lahiri lost in the play-off at the Jeev International in Chandigarh and capitalised on an invite into the season-ending Indian Tour event in Jamshedpur to finish T-11. “The golf was good, but I also put on weight in India, eating all the yummy food. It was generally a good time with family and friends,” he added.
So, when Lahiri came back to US just before the calendar turned for 2021, he had to ‘rework’ a few things. “Since I’ve come back I’ve gotten back in the gym to get that weight off. So I was just trying to get back to my routine. Get in the gym; get on the range play some golf and get myself prepared and ready to go. So, so far so good. It was a nice Christmas and New Years with my family and then some of our friends, Indian friends will live in America. So it was good. I think the last month or so has been has been good for me both on and off the golf course. And, you know, hoping that 2021 is a good year for everyone really, and also for golf in general.”
Written by V. Krishnaswamy for asiantour.com
Swamy is one of India’s leading sports writers, who has covered over 20 Majors and 250 international golf tournaments. Follow him at @Swinging_Swamy.
Korea’s KPGA Tour was able to stage 11 tournaments last year, plus two smaller specially approved events – despite trying circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We spoke to some of the leading players in Korea about how they dealt with 2020 and what their hopes are for the future.
While 2020 was a season most want to forget, there were some success stories in Asia and none more so than Korean Taehee Lee – who claimed the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in August.
Lee became the first player to win what is one of Korea’s most prestigious events twice, after successfully defending the title he claimed in 2019.
“Back-to-back wins at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open was amazing!” said the Korean, who also finished 2020 ranked first on the Korean rankings.
“It was also the first time in history that someone has won it more than once. This year I will do my best to make it three!”
Last season, the GS Caltex Maekyung Open would have been on the Asian Tour schedule but, with travel restrictions in place, the tournament – first played in 1982 – remained solely a KPGA Tour event.
Lee says he was able enjoy a better quality of life in 2020, although frustrated by the lack of tournament playing time.
“As the number of tournaments decreased I could hardly get out and play. The road to overseas events was blocked. But personally, I had more time on my hands; I had more time to focus on my family. It was a time when I could see how precious life is. I also traveled a lot [in Korea] and visited a lot of places. Of course, I had a lot more time to practice as well,” added the Korean.
His first victory in the GS Caltex Maekyung Open, when it was was part of the Asian Tour, saw him earn playing rights for the Tour and he is determined to find more success when the circuit returns.
“I like warm countries, so the Asian Tour is great for me because there are many Southeast Asian venues. I want to do better and I am preparing for that. I want to let my fans know my name if there is a tournament on!”
Two-time Asian Tour winner Sanghyun Park from Korea also welcomed the downtime.
“I have had a good time with my babies at home because of the coronavirus,” said Park, who was runner-up on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2018.
“But it has been difficult having lost a lot of tournaments and not being able to go overseas and train.
“I don’t have any plans for the New Year, I will wait and see what happens but I really want to participate in tournaments!”
Says Korean Kyongjun Moon, ranked number one in Korea in 2019: “Due to the spread of COVID-19, I have been taking care of my health with my family and staying quiet at home.
“The number of competitions has decreased and I can’t exercise comfortably, but I was more thankful than ever that I could participate in tournaments!”
Moon said he is prepared to travel this year once country’s “guarantee health and safety”.
“It has been difficult for the Asian Tour because it travels to many countries. In 2020, because of COVID-19, many people’s thoughts changed and it was hard, but in 2021, with vaccines and treatments coming out, I want to travel and meet golf fans on the Asian Tour like before,” added Moon.
“2020 was the ‘fastest’ season of my career,” joked Korean Bio Kim.
“Now I`m taking a rest and watching my baby and working hard on physical training.”
Kim triumphed twice in Korea in 2019, signaling a popular return to form for a player who 10 years ago, as a 21-year-old, was one of the hottest properties in world golf when he qualified to play on the US PGA Tour.
He lost his PGA Tour card after one season but upon returning to Korea in 2012, he claimed the GS Caltex Maekyung Open and the SK Telekom Open – another of Korea’s most important events. Great things were expected from him but he struggled thereafter until bouncing back with two wins two years ago.
“I came to think that health is the best [in 2020]. As much as the world was struggling, the players also had a hard year, and without spectators we felt very different as players,” added the 30-year-old, who made it through the Asian Tour Qualifying School at the beginning of last year.
“I want to participate in as many tournaments as possible, but the schedule has not come out yet, and I may need to think about planning for self-isolation for two weeks. But my goal is to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit!”
Seung Park, who in 2019 became the first Korean to win on the Asian Development Tour when he claimed the OB Golf Invitational in Indonesia, was the most philosophical with his answers – despite being 24 years old and at the start of his professional career.
Said Park: “There are a lot of people around the world who are having a hard time because of coronavirus, but history shows that the human race always overcomes any difficulties. Now that vaccines and treatments are being developed, I believe the good times will come back soon. The human race will find the answer. As always.”
*Special thanks to Louis Lee of Korea for assisting with the interviews.