11th September 2019 | Asian Tour
Tour Insider: Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship
By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional
The Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship will be making its debut on the Asian Tour this week, offering a prize purse of US$300,000, of which US$54,000 will go to the winner.
Designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, the Classic Golf and Country Club will play as a par-72 and 7,114 yards from the championship tees.
The course opened for play in 1998 and though this is the first edition of this event, Classic Golf and Country Club has hosted three Tour events previously: the 2000 and 2001 Wills Indian Opens, and the 2009 SAIL Open.
Eight-time Asian Tour winner Jyoti Randhawa of India won in a play-off against South African Sammy Daniels in 2000, while Thai star Thongchai Jaidee claimed the 2001 edition by a single stroke over Ross Bain of Scotland.
The most notable event held at Classic was probably the 2009 SAIL Open. Chapchai Nirat of Thailand recorded the lowest ever score to par after 72 holes in a major golf tournament, and with a score of 32-under-par went on to win by 11 shots. This record still stands in the Guinness World Records today.
Since we have not been back to Classic Golf and Country Club since 2009, we are sort of in an uncharted territory when it comes to “horses for courses” picks.
Jyoti Randhawa is the only past winner of an Asian Tour event held at Classic in the field this week, and the list of players that has played in any of the three Asian Tour events held here is quite short.
So, this week’s picks will all be based mainly on current form, and I will start with the player who is maybe the hottest at the moment, first year pro Kosuke Hamamoto of Thailand.
A runner-up to Yikeun Chang last week in Taipei, and in doing so locking up his 2020 Asian Tour card, Hamamoto has been impressive all year.
With 14 top-20 finishes and seven top-10s on the Asian Tour, Asian Development Tour (ADT) and All Thailand Golf Tour (ATGT) combined, he has shown remarkable consistency in performance.
Hamamoto made only one bogey in four rounds in Taipei last week and went bogey-free in his last 52 holes of the tournament. If he can emulate that feat at Classic this week, he could be a tough player to beat.
India’s Viraj Madappa won his maiden Asian Tour event just over a year ago in Bangalore, taking home the TAKE Solutions Masters trophy in his rookie Asian Tour season. Following up on a win in bigger events against stronger competition is never easy, but Madappa seems to have learned a lot from his experiences in the past year.
Excited to be playing in front of home crowds again, he is also full of confidence. After two solid events in a row in Taipei and Jakarta where he finished 25th and 22nd respectively, Madappa feels like he is playing well enough to win again.
Having the comfort of home crowds and past knowledge of the course could see him through to another top finish this week, and he would be a very popular player on top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon.
Fellow Indian Chikkarangappa S. is definitely due for his first Asian Tour victory. “Chikka” has already won twice on the PGTI this season in his only two events played on that Tour, and also has two wins on the ADT, the 2014 and 2015 TAKE Solutions Masters.
With a tied-10th at the Hero Indian Open and a tied-20th finish at the Maybank Championship, having already secured his playing rights for the 2020 Asian Tour season should have him playing stress-free golf for the remainder of the year.
If he can get a sometimes-un-cooperative putter going, it would not be surprising to see Chikkarangappa lift the trophy this Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps the most experienced of the top-ranked players in the field this week is Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura. He finished second at this year’s Hero Indian Open and is currently ranked fifth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. He is also 50th on European Tour’s Race to Dubai Rankings and 183rd in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), impressive numbers.
Kawamura will be looking at this week as a way to secure a spot in the WGC-HSBC Champions field, and while he possibly needs some money, he definitely needs a start in a full-field event in order to qualify through the Asian Tour.
The top-four eligible players on the Order of Merit after next month’s Mercuries Taiwan Masters will qualify for WSG-HSBC Champions, and although Kawamura is fifth, he is currently the last player in since Yosuke Asaji will not be eligible through Asian Tour due to insufficient events played.