March 2021 | Asian Tour

Thaworn continues to build on his legacy


Published on March 30, 2021

With an unprecedented 18 Asian Tour wins and over 30 professional titles in total under his belt, Thai legend Thaworn Wiratchant is still continuously building on his legacy.

Just last week, at age of 54, he impressively notched another victory on the Thailand Champions Tour after winning by two shots over fellow veteran Prayad Marksaeng, in Pattaya.

CHON BURI-THAILAND- Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand pictured at the Singha Thailand Champions Tour 2021 event at the Burapha Golf & Resort, Chon Buri, Thailand. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

And, last July, the master of the unorthodox swing even held off the young guns on home soil to win the event hosted by Thongchai Jaidee, for his eighth title on the All Thailand Golf Tour.

Last week marked the 16th anniversary of arguably the biggest victory of his career at the Indonesia Open – his only triumph in an event joint sanctioned by the Asia and European Tours – Thaworn shares the secret to his long-term success and how he feels about the mark he is leaving in Asian golf, following his 34 years in professional golf.

1) How have you been during the pandemic? Where were you and did you play golf?

During the pandemic, I renovated my house and I built another golf practice room because the driving range was closed during lockdown. I have a golf simulator, a putting area and a fitness corner set up in that room.

2) You won Thongchai’s event last year. What is the secret to your ability to keep winning as you get older? Special diet, special workout?

What I did 10-15 years ago, I still do the same today. I may have some regression, but I keep working out and practicing the same. When I was young, I wanted to be successful, so discipline and consistency in practicing is very important for me. This is a career. If we are more diligent than others, we will play better than anyone else. It’s a lot more about skill than luck.

3) At the start of your career on the Asian Tour, did you ever think you would win a record 18 titles?

I did not think about that. The first time I joined the Asian Tour, I could not even make the cut. I never thought I would come this far. However, there were not too many players in the Asian Tour at that time, so I could keep the card. Although I was a two-time Order of Merit winner, I could not get many sponsors. It was fortunate that I had a main sponsor and especially Thai golfers have been supported long-term by Boonrawd Brewery (Singha Corporation). The players are looked after by Singha even after they are done with their playing careers. Although I have not got income from other sponsors, I collected money from my performances. Diligence is the key to my success.

4) What do you consider your greatest win?

I won my first Asian Tour title at the 1996 Sabah Masters. I remember it was the day Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Boromrajajonani (Thai Royal Grandmother) passed away. I heard about her passing just before I teed off, so I prayed to her that I want to win. I wanted to do something proud for my country. I wanted to bring the trophy back to Thailand.

After I won my first title, I just felt like I could win more. But then I waited a long time to win again, which was in 2001. At that time, I knew my skill was not good enough and I did not practice enough. There were lots of great golfers out there but I knew my time would come. So I just kept practicing to make myself a better player.

5) Do you think it was your amazing short game that helped you win so many times or was it more your mental strength?

Not at all, it depends on practicing. If you want to have a good short game, it requires practicing and imagination. Imagine a golf ball being hit the right distance, height, and with the correct amount of spin. But I cannot advise you because you have to find out yourself.

CHON BURI-THAILAND- Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand pictured at the Singha Thailand Champions Tour 2021 event at the Burapha Golf & Resort, Chon Buri, Thailand. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

6) Who was your golfing idol growing up?

When I was a national player, my idol was Tom Watson. I also like Jack Niklaus. They are legends. In Thailand, my idol is Boonchu Ruangkit who was my golf mentor as well. Not many people know that he taught me when I worked at the Royal Army Golf Course. At that time, he was a national player, he practiced at the Royal Army Golf Course. When he took a break from practicing, he would give me advice as well. When he turned pro, I would caddy for him whenever he came to play golf at the Royal Army Golf Course.

7) What are your plans and objectives in the future?

I still want to keep playing. I also look forward to playing in Japan and Europe again on the Senior Tours.

8) When do you think you will stop playing and retire?

I have not thought about this yet. I still enjoy playing. Although playing with young players is hard and it’s tiring to try to make cut, I still enjoy playing every time. Also, there are senior events to play so I am still having a lot of fun on the course.

NAKHON RATCHASIMA-THAILAND – Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand pictured at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship 2021, Rancho Charnvee Resort & Country Club, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, March 4-7, 2021. The THB 4.000.000 event is part of the All Thailand Golf Tour schedule.

9) Will you host an event yourself like Boonchu and Thongchai?

Many people have asked me about this but I will have to discuss with my main sponsor, Boonrawd Brewery first. Many people have shown their support that I can host my own event. But to me, it’s a fifty-fifty chance. It’s not easy organizing a tournament.

10) Who are the young Thai players coming through now who you think are the best?

There are many young talent players such as Gunn Charoenkul, Danthai Boonma, Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Sadom Kaewkanjana. It’s difficult to say who is the best. They all have similar skills and have their own way of practising.

Most players on the Asian Tour think that Thai golfers are strong. There are always three to four Thais in every top-10. I admit that Thai golfers are very good and fortunate because we have many tournaments to play here in Thailand. These tournaments allow Thai players to sharpen their skills and gain playing experience. However, you will have to stay disciplined and ensure consistency in practicing. If you are diligent, you will go a long way.


Published on March 22, 2021

Two-time Asian Tour winner Justin Harding returned to the winner’s circle at the weekend when he triumphed in the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker, on the European Tour.

The South African beat American Kurt Kitayama, also an Asian Tour champion, by two shots at Karen Country Club.

Harding had started the final day two ahead and was never caught, going on to card a bogey-free 66 to finish at 21 under.

Harding and Kitayama congratulate each other on the final day (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Playing partner Kitayama briefly cut Harding’s advantage to one as he carded two eagles in a 66 of his own, but Harding stayed in control and earned a sixth worldwide victory in three years.

Harding hit the headlines when he won twice on the Asian Tour in July of 2018, at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open and the Royal Cup in Thailand. The following season he also claimed his first title on the European Tour at the Qatar Masters, but struggled with his game after that.

“I went through such a good run in 2019 when it felt like I never actually played badly,” said the 35 year old. “Getting over the line in Qatar was, it sounds a bit strange now, but it was almost like something that was going to happen.

“I’ve been through a dip in form in terms of mixed results and it was nice to get over the line this time around. Winning isn’t everything but I think being in the winner’s circle again means a little more to me than I actually thought it did.

“Ultimately, I just hope that I can kick on and it would be nice if I could go on a run like I did in 2018/2019 but who knows? Maybe I do it, maybe I don’t. We’ve just got to keep giving ourselves some chances.”

Harding celebrates the win on the 18th green (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Harding and Kitayama went head-to-head in the final group at the 2018 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open – with the American prevailing on that occasion, in an event jointly-sanctioned by Europe and Asia.

“Kurt’s an unbelievable competitor,” he said. “I got him back for Mauritius.”

It was indeed an excellent week for Asian Tour members: Australian Scott Hend – a 10-time winner on the Asian Tour – was tied for second after the third round and eventually finished equal 16th with Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar.

In-form Bhullar finished joint runner-up in the previous week’s Qatar Masters.


Published on March 21, 2021

Thailand’s brilliant young star Phachara Khongwatmai has described his triumph in the PGM CCM Rahman Putra Championship – achieved on this very day in 2015 – as being “like the first step to improve my game”.

He claimed the Asian Development Tour event by the comfortable margin of four strokes at the Rahman Putra Golf and Country Club in Malaysia, to secure his first regional title as a professional.

“It is a very good memory and it’s like the first step for me to improve my game,” said the 21-year-old Phachara, speaking from his home in Thailand last week.

“At that time I was young and didn’t think too much while I was playing. My game was aggressive. I enjoyed traveling on the Tour with friends. I was an easy-going person like a normal teenager. But now I am older and changed my perspectives with more careful planning.”

PATTAYA, THAILAND – DECEMBER 20: Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand pictured in action at Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club on December 20, 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand. (Photo by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/Getty Images)

The win was part of a phenomenal start to his career, coming just two years after he had tasted victory in the Singha Hua Hin Open in Thailand as a 14-year-old amateur.

He adds: “At that time [at the Singha Hua Hin Open] I was very young. I remember that I played without thinking of the result. After the second round, I was on top of the leaderboard, then after the third round I heard someone say that I’m a new golfer and I wouldn’t win. To be honest, during that time I didn’t think about the title. I just wanted to go out and play, enjoy and have fun. I didn’t think about the trophy.”

He says winning that event was a turning point and he decided to turn professional straight after.

“I discussed it with my parents and made plans for my life and which way to go. They did not force me and let me to decide. They have always supported me,” says the Thai.

Phacahara also won the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship, on the Asian Development Tour, in Thailand later in 2015 to further enhance his status as the region’s most exciting young player.

Surprisingly, the gifted golfer has yet to win on the Asian Tour and has been a runner-up on six occasions.

But a victory in the 2019 GolfSixes Cascais – an unofficial money ranking team event on the European Tour – with Thongchai Jaidee once again showed he is on the cusp of winning at the top level.

CASCAIS, PORTUGAL: Thongchai Jaidee and Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand celebrate victory with the trophy during Day Two of the GolfSixes at Oitavos Dunes on June 08, 2019 in Cascais, Portugal. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Despite the lack of silverware Phachara is upbeat and biding his time.

He says: “I never get discouraged and enjoy playing golf every time. It feels good to go out for a competition. However, I am still aiming to win on the Asian Tour and I think I have a chance to win in the future.”

A minor car crash recently, that left him with stitches in his mouth, meant he had to take a short break from the game but he is expected to defend his Singha Esan Open title on the All Thailand Golf Tour later next month.

His win in that event last year was his fifth on home soil.

“To win the Singha Esan Open in February last year was a great feeling. It felt really good to  win after  a while. At that time my golf game was very good.  Although it’s not an international title, it’s a very good feeling to win at home.”

 


Published on March 17, 2021

Thailand’s Poom Pattaropong claimed the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship two weeks ago, but there is always another winner there every year and that is the great man himself, Boonchu Ruangkit. We spoke to the five-time Asian Tour winner, and two-time Thailand Open champion, that week about his popular event – which is hosted on the All Thailand Golf Tour and normally co-sanctioned with the Asian Development Tour, except during seasons when coronavirus is prevalent.

How have you been during the pandemic, where were you, and did you play golf?

I have lived in Bangkok and Khao Yai (in Nakhon Ratchasima province). If the situation was not so good, I would stay in Khao Yai. Friends would come to visit me there and we played golf together very often.

Tournament host Boonchu Ruangkit in relaxed mode during a busy week. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

You must have been very relieved that you can stage your event this year and last year?

My tournament was postponed twice because of coronavirus. Today, I am extremely happy that I have done as I promised to the players. I remain committed to nurturing the future generation of Thailand’s professional golfers but admit that the COVID-19 crisis made this year’s edition the most challenging to organise.

Why did you first start the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship?

Thailand’s senior golfers have moved on to become legends, so we have to build the new generation. We should have tournaments for them to gain experience, help their income and give them the chance to attend international tournaments on the Asian Tour and Japan Tour.

My tournament is organised to allow young Thai players to sharpen their skills and pursue their careers on the international stage. I believe that our golfers are second to none and it is very important that we have an appropriate development programme for them, as well as a wealth of tournaments.

LPGA star Ariya Jutanugarn was in attendance. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

How happy have you been with the event’s progress?

The progress has been excellent and I am very happy with what we have achieved so far. I would like to thank all of our sponsors for their support this year, and every year. This year was particularly exciting as for the first time we had four women professional golfers and some celebrities attend the event. It certainly added some colour to the tournament, especially seeing the women compete with the male golfers; this would have been a great experience for them.

What have been the highlights for you over the years about your event?

Importantly, we have worked hard to make sure the tournament is international standard. You will see a players’ lounge, a LED display on the 18th green, and of course it is broadcast live on television and it is streamed live.

We want to ensure our players compete in an environment that is the same as when they play overseas. This will help them be more comfortable and confident when they compete in other countries.

My tournament can serve as a springboard for Thais to play in the global arena.

And of course, it has been great that the top players from Thailand complete in my event every year.

Boonchu said this year’s event was the most stressful edition. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

What are your long-term plans for the event?

We will have to see what happens with coronavirus, but we are confident the situation will improve.

I still want to make the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship an event where senior and young players can meet each other every year. It is a special situation.

However, much also depends on the continued support from our sponsors.

Is it hard work staging your own event?

It’s harder and harder to organise the tournament every year. This year it’s been really hard work, because of the coronavirus crisis. This year we had less sponsors compared with the previous year, but it is understandable in this climate especially for sponsors in sectors hardest hit. It has been a challenge, but we have been very determined to keep going.

During your playing career what do you think your greatest achievements were?

Every tournament was important for me and I did my best every time. Also, being the president of the Thailand PGA Tour and helping the development of professional golf in Thailand makes me very proud.  It is very rewarding to play a part in helping golfers, especially the youngsters, to play and develop their skills.

All precautions were taken to make sure the event was safe from COVID-19. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Do you miss those playing days?

Yes, I miss those playing days. When I see young golfers playing on the tour, I would like to join them but I’m too old now. Now I’m looking forward to playing on the Senior Tour in Thailand soon.

What was the secret to your great success when playing and winning?

Sponsors have been the secret to my career success. I would like to thank them for the support. They are behind my success. I would never be the person I am today without them.

 

 


Published on March 12, 2021

On this day 15 years ago, Singapore witnessed the greatest achievement by one of its golfers when Mardan Mamat claimed the OSIM Singapore Masters at Laguna National Golf and Country Club. We spoke to Mardan this week about that memorable victory.

Mardan Mamat is a man of many firsts. He was the first Singaporean to compete in The Open championship, when he successfully qualified in 1997, and his success in the Indian Open in 2004 meant he became the first player from his country to win on the Asian Tour.

To date he has tasted victory on the Asian Tour five times and has played in the World Cup on five occasions, among countless other achievements.

Mardan is congratulated by Dougherty after their final round battle. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

But it is his win in the OSIM Singapore Masters in 2006 that he is best known for as the event was jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour.

He was thrust forward into the international spotlight as he became the first player from the Lion City to win on the elite European Tour; and, he became a national hero.

“I can’t believe it’s been 15 years! Time flies,” said Mardan, having just played a practice round at Changi Golf Club, ahead of a local event there next week.

“It was an incredible victory and one I will never forget.”

He created history when he held off the defending champion Nick Dougherty of England for a one-stroke win.

A final round of 71, one under par, saw Mardan finish on 12-under-par 276 and complete an astonishing and emotional wire-to-wire victory.

Mardan celebrates winning with his daughter Syahira, son Syirham and brother Mazlan. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

It earned Mardan, who was 38 years old at the time, a cheque for €138,560 and a two-year exemption to the European Tour.

“We had been practicing a lot on the course before the event and my short game was particularly good – which was a big reason why I won,” he said.

It was a behemoth and brave win as he had to hold off a late and daring challenge from Dougherty – the 23-year-old rising star of European golf.

Mardan started the final day one clear of Dougherty and when the Englishman fell back with three dropped shots on the front nine, it appeared Mardan would coast to victory.

But, as expected, Dougherty clawed his way back into contention with some gutsy play over the back nine. He birdied the 11th but remained three behind with four to play. And a magnificent second shot then left Dougherty with a 10-foot eagle putt on 15 but the putt refused to drop and Mardan got up and down to bravely match his birdie.

Dougherty then birdied the 16th to move within two as they walked to the par-three 17th – the most difficult hole on the course. Both players missed the green but saved par, leaving Mardan two clear playing the last.

“My main goal on the back nine, that day, was to make sure I had a two-shot lead playing the final hole,” adds Mardan.

It proved to be an excellent strategy as Dougherty applied pressure by making birdie on the last.

“I hit a good drive and a wedge in on 18 but my approach went over the back. I managed to chip it very close and hole out. It was what I had dreamed of, to win a big event in Singapore, especially a European Tour co-sanctioned tournament,” said Mardan, who was roared on all the way at Laguna by large and unprecedented crowds.

“It was a very big achievement in my life. Things went my way. And I hoped it inspired all young Singaporeans to achieve what I achieved. It was such a good feeling that I cannot express it.”

Mardan plays his tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

“It just all went horribly wrong for me on the front nine,” said Dougherty. “I fought back well but it was not enough in the end. Mardan finished off very well. It is tough to hold off a bunch of us and I think he did himself proud today.”

Mardan’s win completed an incredible journey from humble origins, and the very definition of golf at grass roots level.

As a kid he had caddied at Jurong Country Club with his brother Mazlan. And it was there that he learned to play the game, using an old six iron.

It was not until he was 15, in 1982, that he got his first full set and by the time he was 18 he was a 12 handicapper.

Thanks to an exemplary work ethic he was off scratch by the age of 22 and he was soon playing for the Singapore national team in the biggest amateur tournaments in the game.

It was a remarkable rise embellished by four fantastic days at the OSIM Singapore Masters in 2006.


Published on March 10, 2021

Korea’s Wooksoon Kang is one of the Asian Tour’s greatest players. A two-time winner of the Order of Merit, he was the dominant player in the late 90s. We caught up with him last week, in Korea, and discovered that he is on-passing his gift for the game to the next generation of golfers in the Land of Morning Calm. 

Food is perhaps an appropriate subject to discuss first with Korean golf legend Wooksoon Kang.

Not because some kind of secret diet was behind a celebrated career that saw him win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title in 1996 and 1998, claim seven Asian Tour events, and 12 Korean Tour tournaments.

22 Feb 2001: Kang Wook-soon of Korea before he plays his second shot to the 4th green during the first round of The Caltex Singapore Masters being held at The Singapore Island Country Club, Singapore. X Digital Image. Mandatory Credit: Matt Turner/ALLSPORT

But rather quite the opposite, as it was widely reported that it was cuisine that partly led to the curtailment of his career.

To be more precise it was American, or western, food that quickly brought an end to his dream of playing on the PGA Tour.

In 2003, having swept all before him in Asia and having the claimed the last of his Asian Tour titles at the 2001 Thailand Masters, he chose to head to that most feared of golfing contests, the PGA Tour Qualifying School.

He made an impressive first appearance, making it through to the Final Stage and just missing his card by one stroke. Although it was not the result he was looking for, it gave him passage onto the lucrative second-tier Nationwide Tour.

South Korea’s Kang Wook-soon holds up the trophy after clinching the four-day 300,000 US dollar Hong Kong Golf Open with a two-stroke victory after firing a four-under-par final round 68, 29 November in Hong Kong. Kang held off England’s Edward Fryatt to finish with a 12-under-par total 272. AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

However, after playing six events, in 2004, he decided to pull up stakes and head home.

“There was a problem because of the food,” said the 54-year-old.

“I played for about six months in the first half of the year, and my score was good. But in America they have bread in the morning. It’s not easy to eat. I had a problem with my body.”

He said he prepared thoroughly for his attempt to play on the PGA Tour and that the courses were very good, but he desperately missed the tastes of home.

At one point he even tried to get his caddie to cook for him, but that was unsuccessful

“The caddie was a man, so it was not easy for him to cook well,” joked Kang.

After returning to Korea he claimed a couple of events on home soil before gradually winding down his playing career.

16 Feb 2001: Kang Wook-Soon of Korea plays his third shot to the 14th green during the second round of the Carlsberg Malaysian Open being held at Saujana Golf and Country Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. X Digital Image. Mandatory Credit: Matt Turner/ALLSPORT

So, how does the quiet and unassuming Korean spend his time these days?

He explains: “Last year, I participated in several tournaments on the KPGA Champions Tour but I’m no longer playing. Since 2017, I have focused on my academy – the Wooksoon Kang Golf Academy. It focuses on finding talented young people and potential CEOs. And I also commentate on golf competitions – more recently the Genesis Open and GS Caltex Maekyung Open – plus I appear on the air.”

He said that it has taken him 10 years to build his business, after overcoming some difficulties early on. He first secured the business in 2008, when he was competing in the SBS Johnnie Walker Blue Label Open.

“After hearing that I had won the business, I won that tournament,” he says.

Kang adds that he was influenced greatly by Kunhee Lee, the late Chairman of Samsung Group, and that his academy is not just a typical golf driving range and par-three course, but rather a ‘system of education’.

“Each year, 1,000 young people learn golf here. They come to learn golf through  educational organizations, local sports associations, and other associations. It is for Korean golf,” he says.

The Korean was on business in Vietnam in February of last year when coronavirus first broke out and by the time he had returned home soon after the situation had become serious.

“We could go to practice ranges as they complied with the government’s COVID-19 quarantine rule to stay 2.5 metres apart. But there were many days when indoor facilities, such as fitness centres, swimming pools, and saunas, were closed. Fortunately, as golf is an outdoor game it did not affect us too much,” he adds.

However, he does point out that when he does go for a round of golf, the culture has changed a lot, and he heads home immediately after, not stopping for a chat, shower or food.

Kang considers his finest win to be the Maekyung LG Fashion Open in 2000.

He beat Australian Kim Felton by one stroke in what is considered one of Korean golf’s Majors.

“The galleries were huge and the difficulty was very high. There was a difference in tension compared with other competitions, so I remember it the most,” he added.

And so, amongst all the highs during a sparking career, was the biggest disappointment?

“It was the 1996 Alfred Dunhill Masters [played at the Hong Kong Golf Club]. At that time, I had a neck-and-neck race with Bernhard Langer. I often faced Langer. I was defeated by him at that time and that is the most regrettable moment of my career.”


Published on March 7, 2021

Thailand’s rising star Jazz Janewattananond had a day to remember at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard on Saturday.

The 25-year-old, who is playing this week on a tournament’s exemption, sank his career first hole-in-one on the PGA TOUR at the par-three 14th hole at Bay Hill Club and Lodge en route to a three-under 69 which moved him into tied seventh place, four shots behind leader Lee Westwood who leads on 11-under-par 205.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 06: Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand watches his shot from the third tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 06, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

A day after he carded a superb 65 to improve from an opening 75, Jazz made three other birdies against two bogeys on a day he missed 50 percent of fairways and greens in regulation. The one shot that counted most was a beautifully flighted six iron which took four little bounces on the green before rolling into the hole, much to the delighted a small crowd gathered around the green.

“Good call, good club,” said a beaming Jazz, whose effort meant that Mastercard would donate US$200,000 to the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation.

“I was a member here for four months during COVID last year and I didn’t have one hole-in-one. So it’s good to have in a tournament and it’s very special to have Mastercard donating US$200,000 to Arnie’s Foundation.

“I was in between a hard 7 and a soft 6 (iron). And my caddie was just nudging me into the soft 6 and the rest is history. The round was very choppy at the end and choppy at the start as well. The middle was pretty good. Overall, pretty happy as it was tough conditions.”

His scrambling saved him on a few occasions which now gives him a shot an unlikely win after how his week started with his 3-over par round. He made a 26-foot birdie on 16, rolled in a putt of 22 feet to save par on 17 and got up and down from the bunker four times to outscore playing partner Max Homa, who won The Genesis Invitational recently, by three shots.

“I think we might get a little bit more sun tomorrow. The golf course might play a bit different so we can go at more pins than today. But yeah, the same plan is really try to hit the fairway, try to hit the green. It’s great because I know Roy (Saunders, VP of Bay Hill) personally and he’s the one who give me the invite to play here, so it’s really good to be able to give back to that,” said Jazz.

He spent nearly six months in the U.S. last year after the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports leagues and international borders around the world, and stayed over an extended period with two-time PGA TOUR winner Daniel Chopra, who lives in Orlando and is a Bay Hill member. He is staying with Chopra and family again this week.

“I mean, there’s home course knowledge that helps in the fact here for sure. I must have played over a hundred rounds in shoot-outs like they have every day with the members and we kind of had fun and it’s great. Just learning the culture here as well,” said Jazz.

“I’m really fortunate because when the PLAYERS got cancelled after round 1 last year, Thailand’s  border was closed so I didn’t have anywhere to go. I called my friend Daniel, whom I’m staying with this week as well, asking if I could stay with him for a few days and  it turned into a few months. So it’s a great story.”

It would be a greater story if Jazz can pull off a victory on Sunday as no Thai player has won on the PGA TOUR.

Leaderboard


Published on March 6, 2021

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond fired the day’s low score with a superb seven-under-par 65 on Friday, which was a 10 shot improvement from his opening round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

The reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion took advantage of his local course knowledge as he is Bay Hill member after staying with two-time PGA TOUR winner, Daniel Chopra for nearly four months during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He enters the third round in tied 11th place, five off the lead on four-under-par 140 total.

Jazz was delighted to bounce back to life in the morning wave. The 25-year-old burst out of the gate with five birdies on the back nine, starting at the par-four 11th hole, where he rolled in a 15-foot putt to get his day started. He added three more birdies on Nos. 14 through 16, the first of which he poured in from 33 feet, before adding one final birdie at the 18th prior to making the turn.

Though he dropped back to four-under with a bogey at the par-3 second, Jazz closed with three birdies over his final five holes. He connected on lengthy putts from 17 and 16 feet at Nos. five and six, respectively, before tallying his eighth and final birdie of the day at the last, when he stuck his approach shot inside 10 feet.

“Yesterday, none of the putts dropped but I guess I kept it all for today,” said Jazz. “Everything I seemed to do was better, like I hit my irons a little better and putt a little better which added to a good round. Last year, I was here for like three to four months. I’m a member here which helps as it’s like home course advantage. I’ve played on this course more than any other place in my life. Usually when I’m home I don’t really play that much.

“After THE PLAYERS Championship got cancelled (last year), I literally didn’t have anywhere to go  because Thailand was shut. I was in Jacksonville and I called Daniel and said ‘hey can I stay here for a few days’ and I ended up staying with his family for three to four months. He caddied for me a couple of times on TOUR too.”

By advancing to the weekend at Bay Hill, Jazz has now made the cut in three of four starts during the 2020-21 PGA TOUR season. He tied for 60th at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD and tied for 51st at The Masters Tournament. His best finish on TOUR remains a tie for 14th, which he accomplished twice in 2019 the PGA Championship and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 05: Sungjae Im of Korea plays his shot from the seventh tee during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 05, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

For the third consecutive year, Korean standout Sungjae Im will enter the weekend rounds inside the top 10 on the leaderboard. He finished in the top-three in his first two appearances at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and hopes to be third-time lucky by winning the prestigious PGA TOUR tournament.

Im, who is ranked 17th in the world, posted a second round 70 on Friday and sits at five-under 139 in tied seventh place through 36 holes. He trails leader Corey Conners by four, while Martin Laird sits in solo second at eight-under. Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Lanto Griffin are a further stroke back in share of third place.

Chasing a second TOUR win, Im made the turn at even par — a 22-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second was offset with a bogey at the par-5 sixth— before moving into red numbers with a birdie at the 10th. Though a double bogey at the 13th moved him to 1-over for the day, the 22-year-old quickly rallied at the ensuing par-3, pouring in a 30-foot birdie putt to get back to even-par. He ended his day on a high note at the par-5 16th, which he eagled after hitting his 190-yard approach shot inside 10 feet. He eagled the 16th on Thursday as well.

“I hit my driver well and found a lot of fairways. It helped me with my second shots. The rough is difficult here, so keeping the ball on the fairway is key. I have made some good scores over the past two days due to my driving,” said Im, who missed only one fairway during his second round.

A return to Bay Hill, home to the late golf legend Arnold Palmer, is always special. As the 2019 Rookie of the Year and recipient of the Arnold Palmer Award, the Korean star enjoyed the privilege of a tour of Palmer’s office last year. “I know Arnold Palmer is a legend in golf and a great player in the era,” Im said previously. “I think I have something connected to Arnold Palmer.”

With his putter finding its range where he ranks sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting over two rounds, Im hopes his flatstick will continue to produce the birdies and eagles in hope of a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is one of three elevated tournaments on the PGA TOUR. “I think my form is almost the same as the last couple of weeks. If I can make some putts at the critical moments, I would be good enough to compete for the top,” he said.

Leaderboard

 


Published on March 2, 2021

Sentosa Golf Club, home of the Asian Tour, is widely respected as one of the world’s greatest golf clubs with two pristine conditioned golf courses, showcasing breath-taking views of the Singapore Straits and metropolitan Singapore.

Since reopening in December, the Club’s world-class championship course, The Serapong, has attracted positive headlines from across the globe. As the host venue for the SMBC Singapore Open, The Serapong is one of the world’s best golf courses, having been named ‘Singapore’s Best Golf Course’ for the third consecutive year at the World Golf Awards in 2020, as well as being ranked 59th in Golf Digest’s ‘Top 100 World’s Greatest Golf Courses 2020-21’.

The man tasked with taking one of golf’s most iconic courses and making it even better, right in the midst of a global pandemic, was the Club’s own General Manager and Director of Agronomy, Andrew Johnston. With three months having passed since the course reopened, we sat down with him to discuss how The Serapong is shaping up and what we can expect from this prestigious course in the future….

Picture by Paul Lakatos/Lagardere Sports.

Since The Serapong reopened at the end of last year, what has the feedback been like?

The feedback so far from our members and guests regarding the renovations has been extremely positive. Our aim was always to provide them with the best possible playing experience, whilst also setting the course up to deliver an exciting challenge for golfers of all abilities.

Our members and guests have become used to experiencing the highest standards of playing conditions 365 days of the year on The Serapong, which is what we pride ourselves on, and this was definitely something we factored in during the renovations. We are continuously looking to improve the quality of the experience at Sentosa Golf Club and hope that the positive feedback from everyone who has played The Serapong continues to circulate.

Each and everyone of the fairways on The Serapong has been rejuvenated.

Because of COVID-19, we know all the staff at the club had to help out with the renovations. What was that experience like? You must be very proud.

With the renovations on The Serapong commencing just as Singapore was about to go into the ‘Circuit Breaker’, there were many challenges faced. The Club had to be nimble and remain aligned with the changing restrictions throughout the pandemic. The rules of operation were fast changing in the early stages from wearing masks, testing protocols and limited staff allowed on site, to quarantining and working from home.

So, a major challenge that we faced during the renovations was attempting to keep up with the tight construction deadlines, while still meeting all the Safe Management Measures (SMM) in Singapore. We were also only allowed a certain number of staff on-site at the Club on any given day. Our contractor had 150 labourers and operators involved with the project, but just 25 days before the works started 140 of them were quarantined for over four months, meaning our staff had to step in and support and go the extra mile to get the job done.

I am very proud of everyone associated with the Club and the role they played throughout the entirety of the renovations. Despite facing a number of difficult circumstances, we all take great pride in how the renovations have turned out.

We have managed to take one of the world’s top 100 golf courses and make it even better than before, as well as future-proofing it for many years to come.  However, we would not have been able to complete such a project without the help of all our staff. It took a huge amount of effort and dedication from everyone associated with SGC, whatever department they worked in, including front of house staff, F&B staff, committee members, and many more, to get the renovations over the line.

Their motivation to make The Serapong even better never changed and a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality meant our staff continued to strive for the same levels of perfection that would normally have been expected of them on a day-to-day basis prior to lockdown. All whilst adhering to and meeting the SMM required of them.

The Serapong’s iconic 5th hole has seen extensive renovations to its bunkers.

When Sentosa hosts its next tournament on The Serapong, how do you think the players will feel about the changes? Is the course even harder?

We believe the players would say the newly renovated Serapong still provides a fair, but challenging test. The Serapong has always offered one of the most formidable challenges in Asia and by changing small aspects of the layout, golfers are now required to think hard about their strategy and find new ways of overcoming the obstacles they face during their round.

One of the showstopping features added to the course is the new bunkering that has given The Serapong a fresh new look with creative serrated edging. They look deeper, larger, and truly capture a golfer’s imagination when they are lining up their next shot.

Another fundamental change to the course layout involves the works undertaken on the 6th hole. We have realigned the tee complexes and moved them to the right of the cart path, therefore changing the visual alignment of the hole and making golfers look further down towards the water on the right at the edge of the rock wall.

Also, a large new waste bunker has been added, as well as 60 palm trees, which means players will have to change their strategy if they opt to hit away from the water and avoid the sand, as their line into the green will now be affected. We have also added a new false front to the 6th green, named ‘The Dragon’s Tongue’, that requires golfers to add a touch of precision to their game in order to walk away with at least a well-earned par.

The 14th hole at The Serapong

The Serapong receives rave reviews from players every year. In your view what makes the course so special?

The Serapong has always been special because it provides breath-taking views wherever you are on the course. This is especially true for ‘The Dragon’s Tail’ (holes 4-7) and the personality of the course has only been enhanced by the renovations.

We realigned the tee complex on the 4th hole and by doing so have opened up the visual alignment of how the serpentine shoreline and walls lie in front of a player’s vision and now takes them on a continuous journey all the way up to the green, therefore adding to The Serapong’s storyline. This small adjustment enhances the coastal theme and plays a big part over the next four holes in how the course, and Sentosa’s story, plays out.

The 5th Hole continues to showcase spectacular views of metropolitan Singapore, whilst Hole 6 now aligns with the shore, offering views of Pulau Brani and delivering a reoccurring visual experience. It is not every day that players will be able to experience such an incredible setting and I always think players find this stretch pretty unique. The Serapong is a one-of-a-kind journey that is proud to welcome golfers from around the world to take on its challenge.

In layman’s terms, which were the bits of clever technology used for the renovations?

Good question! Throughout the renovations there were a number of specific pieces of technology used to help enhance the course. All the tee boxes were re-lasered to reinstate a tabletop flat finish and return them to their original size, as well as updating the grass to allow them to be maintained at super low mowing height of 3mm.

The greens were also improved through a drill-and-fill process that saw machines inject a pre-made sand mix solution into them in order to rebuild and enhance the soil structure condition. With an enhanced air ratio, it will see the putting surfaces stand the test of time and the tropical climate in Singapore for the next decade.

Last question. Which is your favourite Singapore Open and why?

Well, I certainly have quite a few and there are so many great memories over the years. One of my fondest is watching Angel Cabrera down 18 in the final round. He hit a booming drive with a bit of fade off the water (his caddie thought it was going in the water, but Angel knew it had cleared). Then hit a 6-iron from 200 metres out, pin high, for an easy two putt birdie and to close the tournament out by one from Vijay Singh. A 6-iron from that distance these days might not seem that much, but back then it was something special from that range. That week in 2007 had everything. Angel played majestic golf all week, including a 63 in the second round and we have to also remember his driver head came off during his first round and he still managed to shoot level par!

I will also never forget Adam Scott’s three-peat. There’s just something about Singapore and Sentosa Golf Club that just clicked with Adam. He’s given us a lot of great memories here too.

SENTOSA, SINGAPORE – SEPTEMBER 11: Adam Scott of Australia poses with the Trophy after he won it by 13 under par 271 during the Final Round of the Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club on September 11, 2005 in Sentosa, Singapore. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

*The Sentosa Golf Club is part of the Asian Tour Destinations, an exclusive network of world-class golfing properties around the region that offer a comprehensive range of facilities and services to club members and guests, as well as to Asian Tour players and officials. 


Published on March 1, 2021

American star Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship on Sunday at The Concession Golf Club, in Florida, by shooting a three-under-par 69 to finish at 18 under – three ahead of countrymen Billy Horschel and Brooks Koepka and Norwegian Viktor Hovland.

Following a first round 70 on Thursday, Morikawa went on to birdie 20 of his next 45 holes to impressively pull away from the elite field and claim his first title since last August’s PGA Championship.

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“It shows that I can come out here and compete,” said Morikawa, after his fourth PGA Tour win in just 39 starts.

“What a week. I was working on so much over the last couple of weeks … My game felt so good. I’m so excited right now.”

With much of the field dressed in red and black to honor Tiger Woods, after his near-fatal car crash earlier this week, Morikawa was emotional in the end after his victory.

“Tiger means everything to me,” said the 24-year-old. “Yes, he had the crash, thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery. I don’t think we can say thank you enough. I want to say thank you to Tiger … Sometimes you lose people too early. You don’t get to say thank you enough.”

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Asian Tour’s top-two ranked players on the Order of Merit, Australian Wade Ormsby and American Trevor Simsby performed with distinction.

Ormsby, ranked first on the Merit list, closed with a 72 to finish in a tie for 52nd, while Simsby carded the same score and ended in equal 37th.  The American, playing in his first WGC event, made a hole-in-one on the par-three sixth on day three.