19th July 2019 | Asian Tour

Kiradech spearheads Asia’s charge with flawless 68 at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 18: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat will lead the Asian charge into the second round of The 148th Open after opening with a flawless three-under-par 68 at Royal Portrush on Thursday.

Despite nursing a knee injury, the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion showed he can still produce a worthy performance at the world’s oldest Major by taking a share of third place with 12 other players which also include Major winners like Spain’s Sergio Garcia and world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States.

“The knee’s still affecting the golf swing but I played really solid golf today as I managed to control my energy levels and pace myself really well today,” said Kiradech, who is making his sixth appearance at The Open.

Kiradech will start his second round two shots back of American leader JB Holmes, who overcame an opening bogey before firing six birdies to take the day’s honours with a 66.

“I’ve been practicing the last couple of weeks. I’ve been playing great. So actually I felt great and very confident coming in. I was hitting it great and I putted well. I wasn’t really surprised with today’s result. I mean, I played well,” said Holmes.

Korea’s Sanghyun Park, who missed the cut in his Carnoustie debut last year, showed early promise by signing for a 69 to end the day tied for 16th while India’s Shubhankar Sharma was pleased with his opening round efforts after posting a 70 to take a share of 20th place.

“It was a good day today. One-under is always a good start and I couldn’t have asked for more. The major takeaway from today was I managed to stay bogey-free as I made a few crucial par putts coming in especially the ones from 14 to 16,” said Sharma, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.

Debutant Mikumu Horikawa of Japan along with South Africa’s Justin Harding signed for a 71 to share 42nd place while Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul mixed his card with two bogeys and a birdie to take tied-54th place along with Yosuke Asaji of Japan.

Thailand’s Prom Messawat and South Africa’s Shaun Norris are a further shot back in a share of 72nd place after returning with matching 73s.

Americans Kurt Kitayama and David Lipsky together with Thailand’s Jazz Janewattanond and Korea’s Doyeob Mun struggled with their respective 74s while Australia’s Jake McLeod, Japan’s Yuta Ikeda and Korea’s Dongkyu Jang had a day to forget when they returned with matching 76s.

Ends.


| Asian Tour

Sharma passes opening test with flawless 70 at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 18: India’s Shubhankar Sharma was delighted to have passed his first round test after signing for a bogey-free one-under-par 70 at The 148th Open on Thursday.

Playing alongside world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States and 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion showed he could match up to anyone on his day with his steady performance at Royal Portrush.

“It was a good day today. One-under is always a good start and I couldn’t have asked for more. The major takeaway from today was I managed to stay bogey-free as I made a few crucial par putts coming in especially the ones from 14 to 16,” said Sharma.

The Indian marked his card with 12 straight pars starting from the first hole before he finally sank a 30-feet putt for his first and only birdie of the day at the par-three 13.

He would go on to make pars on his last five holes before signing for a 70.

“It was not easy out there and I’m pleased with myself. In the beginning I was struggling with the lines and didn’t hole too many putts. But I found my rhythm on the back-nine and managed to play some steady golf from there,” said Sharma.

Sharma also had the opportunity to reminisce with Koepka about their time in India when they both played together during the final round of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge on the European Challenge Tour in 2013.

“It was really fun playing with Brooks. We spoke about his time in India and his rides in the tuk tuk. He was not so muscular back then and a lot has changed for us in our careers since then,” said Sharma.

Ends.


18th July 2019 | Asian Tour

Kiradech shows no signs of injury concern after opening with a brilliant 68 at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 18: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat displayed no signs of injury concern as he fired his way towards the top of the leaderboard with a sparking three-under-par 68 after the first round of The 148th Open on Thursday.

While Kiradech admitted he could have done even better if he was fully fit, he was still pleased with his opening round efforts at Royal Portrush.

“The knee’s still affecting the golf swing but I played really solid golf today as I managed to control my energy levels and pace myself really well today.

“I’m not 100% fit yet and I don’t want to set any target. Overall it’s a good start and I just want to enjoy every moment at The Open as it is one of the best Majors in the world,” said Kiradech.

The world number 52, who is also the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, got his Major campaign underway with a birdie in his second hole before carding seven straight pars to turn in 35.

Taking advantage of the favourable morning weather conditions, he then sank another birdie on the par-five 12 before closing in style by draining a monstrous birdie putt on 18 from 50 feet.

“The weather helped especially the first 14 holes. It got difficult when the winds picked up and it started to rain. But I put the ball in the right position the whole and only missed a couple of shots,” said Kiradech.

Looking ahead to the rest of the week, Kiradech knows he has to remain level-headed to stay in contention for his Major breakthrough this week.
 
“I don’t have a good track record in links golf. I don’t really want to force the issue and just want to go out there and enjoy myself. The plan is to keep the ball in play and under the wind,” said Kiradech, who has missed the cuts in four of his last five previous appearances at The Open.

Ends.


| Asian Tour

Tour stars all set for action at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 17: 16 Asian Tour members are ready to hit their first tee shot and get their campaign started when The 148th Open gets underway at Royal Portrush on Thursday.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be the first to get things going for the Asian Tour as he tees off at 9.03am in the company of England’s Ian Poulter and Korea’s Sungjae Im.

Compatriot Prom Meesawat, who is making his return to the world’s oldest Major after an eight-year absence, will follow next when he steps up to the tee at 11.15am together with the English pair of Matthew Baldwin and Jack Senior.

American Kurt Kitayama and Australia’s Jake McLeod will tee off at 12.20pm with South Africa’s Erik Van Rooyen followed by South Africa’s Shaun Norris and Korea’s Dongkyu Jang as they go off at 12.31 pm together with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.

In what is expected to be one of the most closely followed groups, Asia’s number one Shubhankar Sharma of India will start alongside world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States and 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen at 1.04pm.

Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand, who missed the cut in his Carnoustie debut last year, will have another chance to redeem himself when he goes off at 1.15pm together with Billy Horschel and Aaron Wise of the United States.

David Lipsky, the 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, will then tee off at 1.37pm together with Australia’s Cameron Smith and Canada’s Adam Hadwin while South Africa’s Justin Harding has the company of Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and American Chez Reavie at 1.48pm.

The opening day’s final four groups will feature Japan’s Yuta Ikeda with Mexico’s Isidro Benitez and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui at 3.43pm, followed by Korea’s Sanghyun Park with Patton Kizzire and Japan’s Yuki Inamori at 3.54pm.

Korea’s Doyeob Mun, who is making his first ever Major appearance, will start at 4.05pm with England’s Andrew Wilson and Japan’s Yoshinori Fujimoto before the day’s proceeding concludes with Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Japan’s Yosuke Asaji teeing off at 4.16pm together with England’s Ashton Turner.

Francesco Molinari, who became the first Italian to win a Major when he won The Open at Carnoustie last year, will begin his defence alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott at 9.58am.

“It would be incredible to be able to hold the Claret jug again on Sunday. But I’m well aware of the challenges ahead.

“There’s a lot of guys capable this week of winning the trophy. And all I can do is do my best, try to put up a good defense and be in contention again on Sunday,” said the defending champion.

Ends.


17th July 2019 | Asian Tour

Gunn awakes to a new reality at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 17: Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul is ecstatic to find himself in company of many of the world’s best players after fulfilling his life-long dream of playing in a Major.

Charoenkul, who regained his Asian Tour card by finishing second at Qualifying School last December, booked his place at The 148th Open after securing a tied-third result at the Mizuno Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series on the Japan Golf Tour.  

It has always been a dream for the 27-year-old Thai to compete against the best players in the world and having sealed his passage to Royal Portrush, Gunn is now looking forward to a brand new experience at the year’s fourth and final Major.

“This is a dream come true for me. Of all the four Majors, I like the Masters and The Open. This is my first time playing in a Major and I’m just trying to take in all the positive vibes and enjoy the experience. 

“I’m going to be playing in front of the biggest and best crowd in my entire career this week and I just want to take it all in.,” said Gunn, who has recorded 11 top-10s in 16 events across five different tours.

Gunn has not set any expectations for himself this week as his goal is to soak up the experience while hoping to calm his nerves when he steps up to the tee tomorrow.

“When I was playing my practice rounds, I was really nervous as I didn’t want to shank the ball into the grandstands where the crowd was. Even though I managed to hit it onto the fairways, I was still feeling very nervous,” said Gunn.

Being at The 148th Open has also changed much of Gunn’s outlook in life as he now hopes to take his game to the next level. 

“For a long time, I have never really appreciated anything that came into my life until I was given a reality check when I was told, hey many people would take this position you are in.

To become a world-class player is going to be the next step. I got better but to be consistently good all the time is very difficult. But that’s what I’ll be been seeking to do from here,” said Gunn. 

Gunn is part of the Thai quartet teeing up at The 148th Open this week. The others are Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jazz Janewattananond and Prom Meesawat.

Ends.


| Asian Tour

Sarawak Championship to make its return in August

Kuching, Malaysia, July 17: The Sarawak Championship will return for its second straight edition on the Asian Tour from August 15-18 next month.

To be staged at the Arnold Palmer-designed Damai Golf and Country Club located in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, the Sarawak Championship will once again offer a prize purse of US$300,000 this year.

Supported by the Sarawak State government, the Sarawak Championship will offer the region’s leading players, along with talented professionals from Malaysia, the opportunity to vie for top honours at the full-field Asian Tour event.

It will also be the second event to be sanctioned by the Asian Tour in Malaysia after the Maybank Championship that took place earlier in March.

As part of its efforts to promote tourism in Sarawak through the staging of the Sarawak Championship, the Sarawak State Government will be able to leverage on the Tour’s global coverage via its digital media channels and television platform to achieve that objective.

Cho Minn Thant, Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO, credited the strong support and commitment of the Sarawak State government for the return of the Sarawak Championship and is confident of raising the stature of the event even further.

“The return of the Sarawak Championship to the Asian Tour’s schedule is made possible because of the vision and commitment of the Sarawak State government. We are grateful for their support and we look forward to strengthening this partnership for many years to come.

“We are also confident of delivering another exciting week of world-class golf to the local galleries and global audience through our media platforms,” said Cho.

American John Catlin sank a clutch birdie putt on the last hole to win by one shot for his second Asian Tour title at the inaugural Sarawak Championship last July.

He would go on to claim his third title in Chinese Taipei three months later and become only the 10th player in the Tour’s history to win three titles in a single season.

Catlin’s outstanding breakout year also saw him clinch the Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the 2018 Asian Tour season.

Placed 186th on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Catlin is set to headline the talented 150-man field from 18 countries when he defends his title at the Sarawak Championship next month.

Other notable players who will feature in the Sarawak Championship include Thai hotshots Sadom Kaewkanjana, Poom Saksansin and Prom Meesawat, as well as India’s Khalin Joshi and Ajeetesh Sandhu, all proven winners on the Asian Tour.

Ends.


| Asian Tour

Jazz Janewattananond: The name, the monk, the weird one

By The Round Golf Podcast

From a family of scholars, Jazz Janewattanond calls himself the weird one.They, no doubt, call him the talented one. This is a player, who at the time of release, is the number one player on both the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour and is pushing for a spot on the President’s Cup team.


He may be in his early twenties but having turned pro just before his 15th birthday, the Thai has gone though some amazing experiences. There’s a glimpse into Thai culture, as Jazz goes into detail of his spell in a monastery and how it helped lift him from his most difficult period as a golfer.


Having made his mark in his first major in the USA, Jazz reveals some of the different ways he has heard his name, why meeting coach Pete Cowen has been so important in his rise up the world rankings and there’s the message he has for the President’s Cup captain Ernie Els.


Not forgetting the Round at the start of the year, where he took on two Ryder Cup stars in Singapore and walked away with the trophy.


16th July 2019 | Asian Tour

Sharma to reunite with Koepka at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 16: Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Shubhankar Sharma of India will get another opportunity to play alongside world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States after being paired together in the opening round of The 148th Open which starts on Thursday.

Together with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, the trio will tee off at 1.04pm (local time) at the Royal Portrush as they commence their quest of lifting the iconic Claret Jug at the year’s final Major.

Sharma was only 16 and playing in his first professional event when he was paired with Koepka in the final round of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge on the European Challenge Tour in 2013.

Although they did not win that event, both have since gone on to enjoy tremendous success and are expected to draw a huge crowd when they play together again this week.

“Brooks is the world number one and I’ve played with him before in India. He came for the Challenge Tour event in 2013 and I’m looking forward to playing with him again.

“Obviously there’s going to be a lot of people following us and hopefully more people back home in India will watch it too. It’s always going to be fun playing with the Major champions,” said Sharma.

Kopeka also believes it will be an enjoyable opening round as he gets to meet Sharma again after six long years.

“It was a long time ago. I haven’t spoken to him since then. It will be fun to play with him again,” said the world number one.

Sharma finished tied-51st in his Carnoustie debut last year and with his birthday falling on Sunday this week, he is hoping for an even more special celebration.

“Last year was obviously very special as I made the cut and celebrated my birthday on the third day. This time, it’ll be on the fourth day so hopefully I can make it even more special.

2018 was a standout year for Sharma who captured his second Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship before going on to become the youngest Indian to play in all four Major Championships.

Apart from his Order of Merit win, the Indian was also conferred the prestigious Arjuna Award back home and named as the European Tour Rookie of the Year.

“It’s always tough to follow up with a good year. But I’ve made some good progress and I’m looking forward to a good spell starting with The Open this week,” said Sharma.

Ends.


| Asian Tour

‘Beware of the injured golfer’ says Kiradech at The 148th Open

Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 16: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat hopes to back up the old saying- ‘beware the injured golfer’ by playing through the pain barrier and putting up a performance he can be proud of at The 148th Open which starts on Thursday.

The decorated Thai, who won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2013 and is also the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card, has been struggling with a knee injury, which is unfortunately not showing much signs of improvements.

“To be honest, my knee’s only about 50% healed. I got my limitations and I can’t really walk that much. I can’t really walk 18 holes on practice days. So I’m trying to pace myself and just play nine holes today. 

“I’ve been struggling and I cannot hit a lot of balls. I cannot force myself but I’m trying to hang in there and play in every Major,” said Kiradech, who is making his sixth appearance at The Open.

While Kiradech’s knee injuries may possibly hamper his progress at Royal Portrush this week, the 29-year-old remains optimistic of a good showing as he tees off alongside England’s Ian Poulter and Korea’s Sungjae Im in the opening round of the year’s fourth and final Major.

“I’ve been struggling the past few months but I don’t want to make any excuses as I always try to play my best golf each time I tee up for a tournament.

“Having said that, it’s always exciting to be back at The Open. It’s a historic event with many great champions and good crowds. I just want to do my best this week and if I can play all four rounds, it’ll be fantastic,” said the world number 52.

Kiradech will have the company of fellow countrymen Jazz Janewattanond, Prom Meesawat and Gunn Charoenkul at The 148th Open this week and has signaled Jazz as the next big star to look out for from the Kingdom.

“Jazz is one of the best players from Thailand now and has been improving a lot the last two years. I believe it’ll not be too long before he breaks into the top-50 in the world. 

“Hopefully, he can be the next Thai player to join me over in the States and I have one more friend over there,” said Kiradech.  

Jazz will be seeking to validate Kiradech’s assessment of him and continue to establish himself as one of golf’s brightest stars.

The 23-year-old is currently leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit and money list on the Japan Golf Tour and announced his arrival on the world stage with a commendable tied-14 place at the PGA Championship in May, which was also the best result by a Thai at that Major.

“I know I’m in good form but it’s going to be totally different challenge this week with the course, weather conditions and the type of grass,” said Jazz.

Jazz will have the company of Americans Aaron Wise and Billy Horschel in his opening round and will be hoping to conjure the same magic that has seen him win twice on the Asian Tour this season.

“This will be the week that stands out from the rest as we (Asian players) hardly get the chance to play links golf. Putting form aside, hopefully we can get lucky here,” said Jazz.
 
Ends.


| Asian Tour

Tour Insider: The 148th Open at Royal Portrush

By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional

The oldest of the four Majors at 160 years old, The Open was established in 1860 and will mark its 148th edition this year.

With Northern Ireland hosting the championship this year, it will be only the second time in the history of the event that it is held outside of Scotland and England. The lone previous exception was in 1951 when it was played on the same course.

Prize money for 2019 will be $10.75 million, an increase of $250,000 from last year.

No Asian player has yet to win The Open in its long and illustrious history. The closest to do so was legendary Chinese Taipeiplayer Lu Liang-huan, also known as “Mr. Lu”, finishing solo second at Royal Birkdale in 1971, only one shot behind Lee Trevino. Mr. Lu would also go on to record a tied-fifth place finish three years later in 1974 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The Japanese duo of Isao Aoki and Shigeki Maruyama are the only other Asian players with multiple top-10’s in the championship, with Aoki recording three (1978, 1979 and 1988) and Maruyama two (1997 and 2002). The best finish between them being Maruyama’s tied-fifth in 2002 at Muirfield.

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – OCTOBER 10: An aerial photograph from behind the green looking back to the tee on the par 3, 16th hole ‘Calamity Corner’ on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host venue for the 2019 Open Championship on October 10, 2018 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The Course

Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunluce Links Course), Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Par-71, 7,344 yards.

A classic and highly rated links-course originally designed by Harry Colt, Royal Portrush Golf Club was established in 1888 as The Country Club and assumed its current name in 1895 under the royal patronage of the Prince of Wales.

It has hosted The Open only once previously in 1951, with Englishman Max Faulkner lifting the Claret Jug and collecting a winner’s check of £300.

Other notable events held at Royal Portrush include The Senior Open Championship 1995-1999 and 2004, The Amateur Championship in 1960, 1993 and 2014, the Irish Open in 1930, 1937, 1947 and 2012, and the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2012.

A number of this week’s players would be familiar with the course from the 2012 Irish Open but also, in the case of Justin Thomas and Thomas Pieters, the 2012 Arnold Palmer Cup.

However, in order to accommodate an event the size of The Open, there have been changes made to the course. The original 17th and 18th holes have been taken out to make room for the spectator village, with two new holes built on land borrowed from the Valley Links course (the club’s other course) inserted on the front nine and playing as the seventh and eighth.

The famous par-three “Calamity Corner”, playing 230-yards and uphill, is now the 16th, and the original 15th and 16th are now serving as closing holes. Perhaps determining the Champion Golfer of the Year on Sunday afternoon.

The Favorites

Rory McIlroy

Playing a Major on home soil for the first time, the Northern Irishman would definitely qualify as the local favorite this week, but there are more reasons than that why he might be considered the man to beat this week:

In 2019 he has posted 11 top-10 finishes in 13 events, including two wins at the Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open. A great season by any standards and arguably the most consistently high-performing player this year. The only thing missing this year is a Major title.

He probably knows this course better than anyone in the field not named Graeme McDowell and holds the course-record of 61, posted in 2005 when he was 16-year-old.

For a player who once claimed his game was ill-suited for links-golf conditions, McIlroy’s average Open finish position since 2014 is an even 3.0, including a wire-to-wire win at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – JULY 15: Brooks Koepka of the United States hits his second shot on the 1st hole during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Brooks Koepka

The world number one has had an incredible run in Majors since the 2016 PGA Championship, racking up four victories and two runners-up in his last 11 starts. He successfully defended the PGA Championship in May at Bethpage Black and was close to repeating the feat at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June when he finished second to Gary Woodland.

In the three Majors played so far in 2019, Koepka has finished tied-second at the Masters, first in the PGA Championship and second at the U.S. Open.

Although The Open has not been his best Major so far, he did finish tied-sixth at Royal Birkdale in 2017.

The Asian Tour Players

This year will see a big contingent of Asian Tour players in The Open, with a total of 16 members qualifying for Royal Portrush and representing seven different nations: Thailand (four), Japan (three), Korea (three), USA (two), South Africa (two), India (one) and Australia (one).

These players have a total of 22 previous appearances at The Open between them with eight cuts made, the best result among them was Yuta Ikeda’s tied-38th place at Royal St. Georges in 2011.

Teeing it up on Thursday on the Dunluce Links will be (in OWGR ranking order):

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – JULY 15: Justin Harding of South Africa looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Justin Harding (RSA) OWGR Ranking: 50th

The winner of five worldwide events since the start of the 2018 season, including the 2018 Bank BRI Indonesia Open and Royal Cup on the Asian Tour and the 2019 Qatar Masters on the European Tour, Harding is currently the highest ranked Asian Tour member on the OWGR at number 48.

Having already tasted Major Championship success at this year’s Masters where he finished tied-12th and earned an invitation back next year, he will be hoping to improve on his lone appearance at The Open. A missed cut at Muirfield in 2013.

Harding is currently leading European Tour in Scrambling percentage with 67.0%, a skill that is sure to come in handy on this week’s difficult course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) OWGR Ranking: 52nd

The 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner has played The Open on five occasions in the past, but the only time he has made it to the weekend was in 2018 when he finished in tied-75th place.

Still a bit bothered by an injury he sustained at the Masters in April, Kiradech will be looking to return to the form he showed at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February where he finished tied-third, and the AT&T Byron Nelson in May where he posted a tied-fifth.

Ranked 69th in the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour he has comfortably retained his card in the U.S. with just over $1.5 million in earnings.

Kiradech does have the experience of being a Major championship contender. In the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills he was within striking distance of the leading quartet of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau and Daniel Berger after three rounds.

Teeing off on Sunday afternoon in tied-seventh place and only three shots behind the joint-leaders, a final round of three-over-par 73 meant he finished in 15th place for his best performance in a Major to date.

Jazz Janewattananond (THA) OWGR Ranking 53rd

Leading the 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit with $738,000 and two victories this season, Jazz has been playing superb golf since late last year.

Opening his season with a win at the SMBC Singapore Open, which as part of the Open Qualifying Series (OQS) qualified him for this week, he has followed it up with seven other top-five and another win at the recent Kolon Korea Open.

At this year’s PGA Championship Jazz was in tied-second place after three rounds. Although he slipped to a tied-14th in the brutal conditions on Sunday, he would have gained invaluable experience from playing in the penultimate group on a Major Championship Sunday.

He is also the current leader of the Japan Tour (JGTO) Money Ranking and sits in 53rd place on the OWGR, one spot shy of his career high.

Jazz’s only appearance at The Open came in 2018 at Carnoustie where he missed the halfway cut after rounds of 74 and 76.

Kurt Kitayama (USA) OWGR Ranking: 112th  

After a solid start to his rookie Asian Tour season, Kitayama broke through with a win at the European Tour co-sanctioned AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in late 2018.

He followed it up with a victory in the Oman Open on the European Tour early this year and is currently in 19th place on the Race to Dubai ranking and 112th on the OWGR.

Known as one of the longest hitters on tour, Kitayama is leading the Driving Distance statistic on the Asian tour with an average of 319.25 yards off the tee.

This will be his first appearance in an Open Championship, his second Major following a tied-64th place in this year’s PGA Championship.

Shaun Norris (RSA) OWGR Ranking: 123rd

After making the cuts at the last two Opens Norris has shown that he can handle links golf conditions, and the South African is coming into this week in good form with a tied-fourth at the Japan PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Winning twice on the Asian Tour at the 2016 LeoPalace21 Myanmar Open and the 2015 Yeangder TPC, he has since then divided his time between Asia and Japan.

In 2018 he finished runner-up on the 2018 Japan Tour Money Ranking after winning the Heiwa PGM Championship, and is currently ranked 123rd on the OWGR.

Yuta Ikeda (JPN) OWGR Ranking: 127th

The most prolific Open participant among the Asian Tour players, with seven starts to his name and a tied-38th as his best finish.

Twice a winner on the Asian Tour, the 2018 Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup and the 2017 Panasonic Open, Ikeda once reached as high as 33rd on the OWGR but is currently ranked in 127th place.

Having recently won the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open on the Japan Tour in early June, Ikeda could be primed for a return to the top echelon of professional golf at Royal Portrush.

David Lipsky (USA) OWGR Ranking: 130th

This will be the 2014 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner’s third Open Championship after playing previously in 2015 and 2017, with a tied-58th as the best mark in his first attempt.

Lipsky has been playing solid golf since his win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in late 2018, with a tied-10th at the WGC-Mexico Championship and top-5’s at the Volvo China Open and Trophee Hassan II as his best results this year.

Currently ranked 10th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and 130th on the OWGR.

Sanghyun Park (KOR) OWGR Ranking: 141st  

Last year’s Asian Tour Rookie of the Year after winning the GS Caltex Maekyung Open and Shinhan Donghae Open in his home country, Park also made his Open debut at Carnoustie in 2018.

He has spent the last two weeks at the Irish and Scottish Opens to get acclimatized to links-golf and should be well prepared for the conditions this week.

Park has three top-5’s on the Asian and Japan Tours as his best finishes year-to-date and sits in 141st place on the OWGR.

Jake McLeod (AUS) OWGR Ranking: 194th

After winning the New South Wales Open late last year, McLeod followed it up with a third-place finish in the Emirates Australian Open the following week which qualified him for this year’s Open as part of the OQS.

This will be the 24-year-old Australians first Open and Major Championship, and he will be looking at this week as an opportunity to turn his season around after a rough stretch of events.

McLeod is after last week’s events ranked 194th on the OWGR.

Mikumu Horikawa (JPN) OWGR Ranking: 195th

Having recently won the JGT Championship Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills, he qualified for this week by being the leading money winner not otherwise exempt on the 2019 Japan Tour.

Horikawa will be playing in his first Open and second consecutive Major after making his Major Championship debut at last month’s U.S. Open.

Currently 195th on the OWGR.

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – JULY 15: Shubhankar Sharma of India plays the first hole during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Shubhankar Sharma (IND) OWGR Ranking: 196th

The reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit Champion and winner of the 2018 Maybank Championship and 2017 Joburg Open is not short of Major experience.

Having played in all four Majors in 2018, he will be trying to improve on his tied-51st finish at Carnoustie last year and get his 2019 campaign back on the right track.

Sharma was last year ranked as high as 64th on the OWGR, but after struggling a bit with his game in 2019 now sits in 196th place.

Prom Meesawat (THA) OWGR Ranking: 273rd

Making his first return to The Open since Royal St. George’s in 2011, Prom should be coming into this week confident after a top-10 in his last event, the Kolon Korea Open.

Having played consistently well in 2019, he has also posted top-10 finishes at the GS Caltex Maekyung Open and SMBC Singapore Open, plus a victory each on the Asian Development Tour and All Thailand Tour.

This solid play in 2019 has improved Prom’s OWGR ranking from 486th at the end of 2018 to 273rd as of this week.

Gunn Charoenkul (THA) OWGR Ranking: 278th

Playing some very good golf this year after re-gaining his card at the Asian Tour Q-School last December, Gunn has recorded 11 top-10’s in 16 events across five different tours.

His equal best finish being a tied-third at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open, which qualified him for his first Open and Major championship.

Currently ranked 13th on the Japan Tour Money Ranking after a string of good performances, Gunn has gained 361 positions on the OWGR in 2019 and currently sits in 278th place.

Olle Nordberg looks ahead to The 148th Open
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND – JULY 15: Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jan Kruger/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Yosuke Asaji (JPN) OWGR Ranking: 327th

This will be Asaji’s maiden Open appearance which he qualified for by winning the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup as a Monday qualifier.

The Asian Tour rookie sits in 4th place on the Order of Merit and in 327th place on this week’s OWGR.

Dongkyu Jang (KOR) OWGR Ranking: 333rd

Last played in The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and will be hoping to make it to the weekend this time around.

Qualified for the Championship by finishing tied-fourth at the Kolon Korea Open, his second top-10 on the Asian Tour in 2019 following a tied-sixth at the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup.

Currently ranked 13th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and has comfortably retained his card for next year with over $100,000 in earnings.  Ranked 333rd currently on the OWGR.

Doyeob Mun (KOR) OWGR Ranking: 407th

Early this year Mun got off to a fast start in his second Asian Tour season by posting a tied-fifth at the SMBC Singapore Open, earning a ticket to his first Open Championship in the process.

The 2018 Korean PGA Championship winner is currently ranked in 32nd place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and 407th on the OWGR.

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