Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, December 25: Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang hopes to make his third title defence at the Taifong Open a successful one when he steps up to the tee at the highly acclaimed Taifong Golf Club on Thursday.
Chan clinched his first professional victory at the Taifong Open when it was held on the local circuit in 2010. He won the tournament again when it came on board the Asian Development Tour (ADT) schedule for the first time in 2014 and was victorious for the third time last year.
The 33-year-old Chan, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, will be bidding for a record seventh victory on the ADT when he gets his title defence underway at the US$160,000 event, which has been the richest tournament on the ADT schedule since its inception five years ago.
“This is where I claimed my professional breakthrough,” said Chan. “I always remember the hard work that I have to put in before claiming my first victory here nine years ago. I feel motivated to play well whenever I come back here.
“I haven’t had much success playing overseas this year but I’m happy to be back playing at home. Winning the event last year gave me a great boost of confidence. I have a lot of good memories here. It’s my lucky winning ground. The greens are looking good this year.
“This will be my seventh straight tournament. I am feeling a little bit worn out to be honest but I’m still looking forward to finishing the year well with a good result this week. I still want to win the tournament and I hope to keep the trophy on home soil,” Chan added.
The race to top the 2019 ADT Order of Merit and finish inside top-seven on the Merit rankings will also reach its climax at the season-ending Taifong Open this week.
With a winner’s prize purse of US$28,000 up for grabs, the stakes are high at the Taifong Golf Club as a total of 120 players from 13 countries will be vying to earn the seven coveted Asian Tour cards on offer for the 2020 season.
Young Korean talent Seung Park, who won the OB Golf Invitational in what was only his second start on the ADT in May, will need a solid performance to break into top-seven on the final Merit rankings and secure his 2020 Asian Tour card.
The 23-year-old Park, who has also won three titles on his domestic secondary circuit this year, sits in eighth place with a season’s haul of US$20,031, thanks to one win and three top-10s on the ADT this season.
“I have had a good year so far. I have learnt a lot from playing on the ADT this year and I have gained a lot of precious experiences as well.
“This week is important for me as I will need a good result to break into top-seven on the Merit rankings. I won’t think too much about that. I will try my best,” said Park, who has also clinched three titles on his domestic circuit’s development Tour this year.
Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito, who has bagged two wins and five top-10 finishes this season, will take aim at becoming the first ever Japanese player to lift the Order of Merit crown on the ADT, which was launched as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010.
He leads the money list by more than US$20,000 with his season’s haul of US$50,278 and is all but guaranteed of his place as Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat, American Trevor Simsby and compatriot Ryuichi Oiwa, placed third, fifth and sixth respectively, all have a mathematical chance to chase him down with a win this week.
Other notable players include Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang, Lu Wei-chih, Hung Chien-yao and Wang Wei-lun, who have all finished inside top-61 on the final 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit last week to secure their playing rights on the region’s premier Tour in 2020.
The Taifong Open, which is celebrating its sixth edition on the ADT this week, returns with great significance as it will be the season finale for the first time on the region’s secondary circuit, bringing the 2019 season to a memorable end.