By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional
The Sabah Masters is a brand-new Asian Tour event held at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, and will offer up prize money of US$300,000 of which US$54,000 will be going to the winner.
It is the ninth full-field event of the year and it will be a great chance for many of the non-exempt players in the field this week to go for a win and secure their Asian Tour cards for the 2020 season.
Sutera Harbour has been used by Asian Tour in the past when it was one of the two courses used for the 2008 Q-School. It is a par-71 course playing to 6,932 yards from this year’s championship tees.
Designed by Australian tour player Graham Marsh who won 70 titles on the Asian Tour, European Tour, Australasian PGA Tour, Japan Tour and PGA Tour in the ’70s and ’80s, it is a flat parkland course right on the Sabah coastline.
From player accounts the greens are quite firm, especially on the back nine, while the surrounding areas are softer. Hitting the fairways should be important this week in order to control the spin into the greens.
When Q-School was held here last time, local hero Ben Leong won his second straight Q-School in front of his local supporters and he certainly has home field advantage this week.
Last week’s winner of the Panasonic Open India has been on a torrid pace all season, and the 17-year-old Kim looks very much like a future world-class player.
Having won the third of his 2019 Asian Development Tour (ADT) titles in October to earn a battlefield promotion to the Asian Tour, the young Korean wasted little time in picking up his first Asian Tour trophy.
After having come down the stretch on Sunday afternoons at both the Thailand Open, where he finished two strokes out of the playoff in tied-sixth, and the Bank BRI Indonesia Open where he finished third, he sealed the deal last week after blitzing the first 10 holes on Sunday by playing them in seven-under-par.
The way he’s playing at the moment there’s no reason to believe that Kim shouldn’t continue this great form this week in Malaysia.
The 2016 Macao Open winner has been playing good golf lately, having lost in a playoff at the Thailand Open two weeks ago, and a tied-14th last week in India. He also had a good result at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open where he finished tied-sixth.
On the All Thailand Golf Tour (ATGT) Pavit has racked up eight top-10s in 10 outings this season, the last two of those in the weeks leading up to Thailand Open he finished tied-third and tied-second.
Currently 35th on the Order of Merit with over US$90,000 and his card for next year secured, Pavit looks primed to win his second Asian Tour title.
With four top-10s in only eight Asian Tour starts and two wins at home on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) this season, Khan has been consistently performing at a high level.
Having lost his card in 2018 after a disappointing season, the two-time Asian Tour winner is now in 24th place on the Order of Merit with over US$117,000 and have secured his status for next year’s Asian Tour season.
With a tied-second at the Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship in September and a third-place finish in Bangladesh earlier in the year as his best results, it would be no surprise to see Khan at the top of the podium this week in Kota Kinabalu.
Starting out the year with a tied-ninth at the SMBC Singapore Open it remains his only top-10 this season, but with over US$106,000 in earnings he is still inside the top-30 on the Order of Merit.
Known as a very solid ball-striker, Panuphol, or Coco as he’s usually known as on Tour, is always a threat when in form, and he played well last week in Japan where he qualified for the final stage of Japan Golf Tour’s Q-School.
Having recently switched over to an all plant-based diet recommended by close friends, the two-time Asian Tour winner says he feels stronger, lighter and more energized than ever. A good sign for this week in Sabah playing in very hot weather conditions.
One of the hottest rookies this season and a player that looks destined to win on the Asian Tour soon, Kosuke has already been close finishing second to Yikeun Chang at the Yeangder TPC in September.
Add a tied-10th at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open the week before Yeangder and it has been a very impressive start to his career for the young Thai.
With over US$93,000 in earnings Kosuke has already secured his playing rights for next season, a win in the near future could be in the cards.
The highest ranked player on the Order of Merit in the field this week, Chang is currently in 11th place with just over US$200,000.
The Korean already has a win this year at the Yeangder TPC in September, and he also finished runner-up the week before that at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open.
After playing his last two events as part of the PGA Tour’s Asian Swing, The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges and WGC-HSBC Champions, he may have picked up some valuable experience playing against super-star fields that can be put to good use this week.