Tour Insider: SMBC Singapore Open – Asian Tour

Tour Insider: SMBC Singapore Open


Tour Insider: SMBC Singapore Open

By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional

 

The Tournament

The US$1 million SMBC Singapore Open has a long history dating all the way back to 1961 and has seen Major champions such as Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera and Shaun Micheel hoist the prestigious trophy.

Last year’s edition was won by Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond, in what turned out to be the first of his four titles won last season. The win came against a world-class field that included players such as Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Davis Love III, and provided Jazz with a huge confidence boost for the rest of the year.

With a score of 18-under-par 266 he beat Paul Casey by two shots and set a new record for lowest winning score since the tournament came to Sentosa in the process.

 

The Course

The Sentosa Golf Club Serapong Course is a long and demanding championship course and will  play as a par-71 at 7,397 yards from the championship tees this year.

The course will play to its full length as the fairways are soft and do not generate a lot of roll off the tee. The sizable greens however are quite firm and fast, and it will take precision shots on the approach to get close to the pins. Because of the firmness of the greens it will also be important to be in the fairway off the tee, a shot out of the rough will be much more difficult to control once it lands on the green.

The par-five 18th  is a great finishing hole as it offers players a chance for an eagle if they can reach the green in two. However, with a lake guarding the left side all the way from tee to green, there is also the possibility of losing one or two strokes with a wayward shot.

 

The Top Contenders

Jazz Janewattananond

The winner of the SMBC Singapore Open here 12 months ago, Jazz used this event as a springboard into the top-100 in the world for the first time in his career. The 24 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points that came with the win moved him from 111th to 74th in the rankings, and he hasn’t looked back since.

After winning the last two events of the 2019 season, and also claiming the Asian Tour Order of Merit Crown, Jazz again had a chance to win on Sunday in Hong Kong last week.

A final round of two-under-par 68 meant Jazz settled for a fourth-place finish in the event, picking up six important OWGR points which boosted his ranking to a new career high of 38th in the world.

Justin Rose

Olympic gold medal winner and former world number one Justin Rose of England will be playing in the SMBC Singapore Open for the third time. He previously finished tied-ninth and tied-14th in 2011 and 2009 respectively.

Rose posted eight top-10s across all tours in 2019, with a win at the Farmers Insurance Open, a third at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tied-third at the U.S. Open as his best results.

As a one-time Major champion (2013 U.S. Open) and a five-time European Ryder Cup team member (2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018) he looks likely to challenge for the title this week at Sentosa.

Henrik Stenson

The 2016 Open Champion and Olympic silver medal winner from Sweden is making his second appearance in the SMBC Singapore Open, as he previously played the event in 2011.

Stenson is coming off a win in his last event, the Hero World Challenge in early December, where he came out on top against 18 of the world’s best players.

In addition to his one Major victory, other highlights in Stenson’s career include winning the Players Championship (2009), the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (2007) and playing on five European Ryder Cup squads (2006, 2008, 2014, 2016, 2018).

Matt Kuchar

Rounding out the Rio Olympics medal-winners is American Matt Kuchar who took home the bronze. He will be playing in Singapore for the first time.

His 2019 season was off to a great start early in the year when he won the Sony Open in Hawaii, and he would go on to post six other top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour during the year.

Kuchar is a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, the biggest two victories came at the 2012 Players Championship and the 2013 WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship. He has also played on four American Ryder Cup teams (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016) and five Presidents Cup teams (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019).

Ryo Ishikawa

Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa won three times in Japan in 2019, including a win at the season ending Nippon Series JT Cup. Ishikawa is a 17-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, the first one coming at an age of 15 years and eight months while he was still an amateur.

Ishikawa will be playing in the SMBC Singapore Open for the third time after participating in the last two editions of the event and will be hoping to improve on his previous best finish of tied-16th in 2018.

Gunn Charoenkul

Starting his 2019 campaign with a tied-seventh finish at last year’s SMBC Singapore Open, Gunn went on to have a fantastic season playing mainly on the Japan Golf Tour. In all OWGR ranking events he has played since the start of 2019, he has posted a staggering 20 top-10 finishes out of 32 events, or 62.5%.

After finishing tied-fourth at Japan Golf Tour’s season ending Nippon Series JT Cup, Gunn came back to the Asian Tour to finish the year with a solo-second at the BNI Indonesian Open, fifth at the Thailand Masters and started this year off much in the same way with a third-place finish last week in Hong Kong.

He is obviously in great form and this would be a good week to finally get that elusive first Asian Tour win.

Scott Vincent

Another player looking for his first Asian Tour win and a player who has been knocking on the door many times, Vincent seems due to break into the winner’s circle soon.

With 11 top-10 finishes on all tours he was a very consistent high performer last season, finishing the year seventh on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and 15th on the Japan Golf Tour Money Rankings.

Vincent also got his first professional win in 2019, taking home the trophy at the LANDIC CHALLENGE 7 on the AbemaTV Tour in Japan.

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