Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 19: Armed with a new back swing and a rise on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit ranking, Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas has set his sights on claiming the PGM MIDF ADT Championship which tees off on Wednesday.
Pannakorn moved up one rung to seventh place on the Order of Merit, which is the cut-off mark for players vying to earn 2020 Asian Tour cards, after previous leader Joohyung Kim made his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Panasonic Open India on Sunday.
Kim, who won his third AT title this season in Pakistan last month to earn playing rights on the Asian Tour for the remainder of the season, secured a one-year winner’s exemption on the Asian Tour following his victory.
Having secured his Asian Tour card for 2020, the 17-year-old teen sensation will no longer feature on the ADT Order of Merit as he will not be eligible for any of the remaining ADT events this season.
Pannakorn, who was crowned the ADT Order of Merit champion in 2017, is hoping to work his way back onto the Asian Tour by putting up a noteworthy performance in Malaysia this week.
“Now that Kim is no longer leading the Order of Merit, I have a good chance to qualify for the Asian Tour again.. That is my main goal. If I can hit well with my iron, I believe I have a good chance to win this tournament too,” said Pannakorn.
The 29-year-old has amassed US$19,764 thanks to a victory in Malaysia earlier in March. A good outing at the US$54,000 ADT event, held at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club this week, will further consolidate his position.
“I have changed my grip and back swing, to get my distance back. In the last two years I have been a long hitter, but I have lost my distance and I want to get it back. I feel better, but still not 100 percent. I hope it’s a good week for me,” added Pannakorn.
Pannakorn became only the second Thai golfer to do lift the ADT Order of Merit crown after Pavit Tangkamolprasert did so in 2014.
“If I can play well in these two events coming up on the ADT, I will feel more comfortable heading into the season-ending Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei,” added Pannakorn, who won the Taifong Open in 2017.
The Thai is expected to face resistance from defending champion Sam Gillis, who is only two rungs below him on the Merit rankings.
New Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan will be among the frontrunners for the title, along with his countryman Ryuichi Oiwa and Sweden’s Oscar Zetterwell.