February 2019 - Asian Tour

New Zealand Open Round 1: What They Said

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 28: Read what players have to say following the opening round of the 100th New Zealand Open on Thursday.

Zach Murray (Aus) – First round 63 (-8), Millbrook Resort

It was a strange warm up for me. I hit about five balls and I was like ‘I’m not going to get warm’, and so I just sat in the pro shop and waited until the sun came out, hit a couple of putts and off I went.

I do that back at home when I’m just playing with my mates so I suppose I might have to do that more often now.

It was pretty steady, I didn’t miss too many fairways and I don’t think I missed a green. It was pretty straightforward, I putted well and everything just sort of clicked and I got a lucky bounce here and there where I needed it. Sometimes those rounds just pop up at the right time and it was fortunate enough that it happened here.

It’s my Dad’s birthday today. He messaged me last night and said 65 would be nice, considering he was born in 1965, so I added a couple of years onto him today with a 63. I spoke to him quickly just before and he said he doesn’t mind.

I love both tracks, I felt as though The Hills suited me a little bit more so it will be interesting to see how I go tomorrow. I haven’t been driving it well lately and that’s what’s been letting me down but I drove it well today.

This is the lowest round I’ve shot as a professional, I’ve had 61 on my home course as an amateur, but this would be one of the best rounds I’ve had since turning professional.

Harry Bateman (Nzl) – First round 64 (-8), The Hills

It was one of the weirdest rounds I have ever had. I topped it off the first tee and made bogey there and the next hole. Then I stuck in and got it back to par, and then lit it up over the last six or seven holes.

I honestly feel I didn’t play that well but got some good breaks and holed some great putts. My short game was unreal. I had a good two days at the Open last year but bit my legs off a bit. Hopefully I will just keep charging this time.

Ryuko Tokimatsu (Jpn) – First round 64 (-8), The Hills

I gave myself a lot of birdie chances today and I putted well. Playing in this pro-am format helps me to stay relax, although the round takes longer than usual. I hope to play the same for the next three days. I didn’t expect to play so well today so I hope to continue play well tomorrow.

Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) – First round 67 (-5), The Hills

Six birdies on the back, it was a really solid nine. It was just too cold in the morning when we started. I wasn’t awake and I wasn’t moving (laughs).

I made a good par on the eighth hole. I was in the rocks but managed to get up and down from about 170 yards. The game started to warm up from there and I am very happy.

I putted better on the back nine although I missed a good birdie putt on the 10th. I think the turning point was the sun! It came up and I started rolling in the putts. The two putts for birdie on 17 was not too hard.

I made a great birdie on the 16th as well. It was a tough par-three. I got a good read from my fellow partner Poom (Saksansin). It was a really nice day. I really enjoyed the pro-am format. I  played with Eric, my amateur partner, whom I have played with before in Indonesia.

I played with Poom’s partner Lisa as well. They kept me calm. I kept myself calm. I kept them entertained and things went the good way! Playing at the Millbrook Resort tomorrow. It’s a birdie course. I will aim to keep my ball on the fairways and make as many birdies as possible.

Poom Saksansin (Tha) – First round 68 (-4), The Hills

It was good making four birdies on the back nine. I have been hitting my irons good for a while now and my swing has become better too. But I haven’t been able to put up a good score, until today. I felt nervous out there. I don’t know why.

But when I kept making birdies out there, I told myself that I can do it. That kept me going. It was good playing with Panuphol (Pittayarat). We had good fun out there.

It’s my second time here. The weather was much cooler than last year I thought. Hopefully we get some sun tomorrow.

Pavit Tangkamolprasert (Tha) – First round 68 (-4), The Hills

I hit my tee shots very good today. It’s my second time here and I am still enjoying it as much as I did last year. My iron-play was good too and I putted well. Just a bad drive on my last hole ninth but overall, it was good.

The birdie on the 18 was good. Tight fairway but I hit it straight down and made a seven-footer for birdie. Playing in the morning tomorrow at Millbrook Resort, it’s going to be very cold so I will just try and stay warm.

The course is in great conditions. The only thing I need to do is to keep myself warm. I love this country. It’s a very beautiful place, good food as well. Playing with the amateurs and my good friend Danthai (Boonma) has helped me stay relaxed out there too.

Ajeetesh Sandhu (Ind) – First round 69 (-3), The Hills

It was a good round, except for the finish. I bogeyed the 18th but overall, it was a great round, especially the company. I really enjoyed it today. I started off really solid. That was the highlight for me. I got to four-under after six holes. It’s always a good way to start the round.

Another highlight was playing alongside Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming today. They are superstars in cricket and we, Indians, are into cricket so it’s pretty amazing to be playing with them.

I have been to Auckland before but it’s my first time in Queenstown. It’s been amazing. It’s a really special place. I think I will be coming back here every year for sure.

The aim for tomorrow is to play a bit more solid than I did today. I should be fine if I can take out the errors that I made today.

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 28: Asian Tour rookie Zach Murray got off to a flying start after signing for a flawless eight-under-par 63 at the Millbrook Resort to grab a share of the opening round lead at the 100th New Zealand Open on Thursday.

The 21-year-old Australian, who came through the 2019 Asian Tour Qualifying School in December, fired eight birdies to sit atop the leaderboard alongside Japan’s Ryuko Tokimatsu and Harry Bateman of New Zealand, who finished strongly to sign for matching 64s at The Hills.

Kodai Ichihara of Japan, a two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, reeled in five consecutive birdies in his closing six holes at The Hills to trail the leading trio by two shots in outright fourth place at the NZ$1,250,000 (approx. US$850,000) event.

After turning in 37 at The Hills, Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat made his move by sinking six birdies in his back-nine to sign for a 67 and grab a share of fifth place at the prestigious event that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand, who leads the current Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, carded a 69 at The Hills to tie in 25th place while defending champion Daniel Nisbet of Australia signed for a 70 at Millbrook Resort for tied-59th place.

There are a total of 152 professionals and 152 amateurs taking part in the event. The first two rounds will alternate between the par-71 course at Millbrook Resort and the par-72 course at The Hills.

A cut will be made after 36 holes and the top 60 players plus ties will go on to compete in the final two rounds at The Hills.


Did you know?

  • Zach Murray of Australia secured his 2019 Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School last December after finishing fourth in the 90-hole event.
  • Murray won the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open (an event on the PGA Tour of Australasia) as an amateur golfer in October 2018. One month later, he made his professional debut at the Australian Open.
  • Murray was ranked as high as 19th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
  • Murray marked his lowest round yet as a professional with his opening 63 in what was only his third start on the Asian Tour.
  • Murray dedicated his good round to his father Craig, who turns 54 today.
  • Murray hails from Victoria, Australia. He is in Queenstown this week for the first time.
  • Ryuko Tokimatsu is the highest-ranked Japanese in the field this week. He sits in 127th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
  • The 25-year-old Tokimatsu is a one-time winner on both the Japan Golf Tour and the Japan Challenge Tour. He had closed with two straight birdies to grab a share of lead.
  • Harry Bateman teed off from the first hole at The Hills in the last group today. Despite opening his round with two bogeys, Bateman bounced back brilliantly with five birdies to turn in 33. He dropped another shot on the 10th but would recover strongly with three straight birdies and an eagle-birdie finish.
  • Kodai Ichihara, 36, claimed his first win on the Japan Golf Tour in June last year. He went on to win his second title in Japan last November.
  • Ichihara enjoyed his best season on the Asian Tour in 2009, where he capped five top-10 finishes and missed only two cuts in 15 tournaments.
  • Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand won his National Open for his second Asian Tour title last year. He has enjoyed solid results in his last three starts on Tour, finishing third at the 2018 BNI Indonesian Masters, tied-ninth at the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open and tie-15th at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth two weeks ago.
  • The 26-year-old Panuphol, who goes by the nickname ‘Coconut’, sits in 193rd place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
  • Known as one of the better ball-strikers on the Asian Tour, Panuphol is hoping to improve on his tied-55th place finish in what was his debut appearance last year.

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 27: Indian star Shiv Kapur believes his well-deserved family holiday will keep him refreshed as he aims to establish himself as one of the genuine contenders for the 100th New Zealand Open which starts on Thursday.

The spirited 37-year-old will spearhead the Asian Tour challenge in the talented field when he make his debut appearance at the NZ$1,250,000 (approx. US$850,000) event, which is slated to take place at the scenic Millbrook Resort and The Hills.

The four-time Asian Tour winner is also relishing the opportunity to play alongside close friend and former National Cricket Team captain Stephen Fleming in the event, that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

Known for his love for cricket, Kapur took time off to participate in a cricket match at the Millbrook Cricket Ground on Monday. He also made an unforgettable trip to the beautiful Milford Sound with his family amidst his preparations for the event.

Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat is looking to better his tied-55th place result from last year as he gears up for a second attempt at the New Zealand Open. He sang praises of the event’s Pro-Am format, which he deemed will help him stay relaxed and bring out his ‘A’ game.

Coming off the back of a victory, Australian Daniel Nisbet is hoping to kick start his title defence with a bang at the prestigious event, where he closed with a superb nine-under-par 62 to win by two shots for his maiden Asian Tour title at the Millbrook Resort 12 months ago.

A total of 152 professionals from 17 countries will play the first two rounds alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the second round cut of top 60 and ties.

The final two rounds will be played at The Hills and the New Zealand Open Champion will be the leading player after 72 holes of stroke play.

The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.

Notable Pro-Am celebrities to look out for include Black Caps legend Stephen Fleming, former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, Tom Walsh, the world indoor and outdoor champion shot putter and newly-crowned New Zealand Sportsman of The Year, as well as Hayden Paddon, a former World Rally Championship driver.

Did you know?

  • After finishing tied-26th at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, Shiv Kapur spent a week off with his family in Australia before coming to New Zealand for his first New Zealand Open.
  • Upon his arrival in Queenstown, Kapur took time off to participate in the cricket match which featured legends Stephen Fleming and Ricky Ponting on Monday. He also enjoyed a trip to the stunning Milford Sound with his wife Maya and daughter Veda on Tuesday.
  • Kapur, the Asian Tour rookie of the year in 2005, ended an 11-year title drought when he won the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei in 2017. He went on to win two more titles and became the only player to win three tournaments that season.
  • Kapur enjoyed four top-10 finishes in 2018, including a joint runner-up at the Royal Cup in Thailand. Kapur is one of the best putters on Tour. His Putts/GIR average of 1.731 placed him in 10th position in this category in 2018.
  • Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand won his National Open for his second Asian Tour title last year. He has enjoyed solid results in his last three starts on Tour, finishing third at the 2018 BNI Indonesian Masters, tied-ninth at the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open and tie-15th at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth two weeks ago.
  • The 26-year-old Panuphol, who goes by the nickname ‘Coconut’, sits in 193rd place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
  • Known as one of the better ball-strikers on the Asian Tour, Panuphol is hoping to improve on his tied-55th place finish in what was his debut appearance last year.
  • Defending champion Daniel Nisbet, who hails from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, enters the week right after winning the QLD PGA Championship on Sunday for his third title in 12 months on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
  • Nisbet overturned a six-shot deficit when he closed with a superb nine-under-par 62 to win by two shots for his maiden Asian Tour title at the Millbrook Resort 12 months ago.
  • The 28-year-old Australian, who dropped only two shots that week, broke the tournament record set by Rodger Davis (262) in 1986 with his aggregate of 258. His 27-under-par total also bettered the lowest score to par held previously by Kel Nagle on 26-under-par in 1964.
  • He will be one of the 13 past champions gathered at the event, which is celebrating its 100th edition this week.

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 27: Read what players have to say ahead of the 100th New Zealand Open which starts on Thursday.

Shiv Kapur (Ind)

I had a lot of high expectations of New Zealand after all that I had heard and it has definitely lived up to the hype and so much more now that I am here. I think it’s by far the prettiest place in the world to play golf.

The tournament format and all that goes on around the event, it definitely gets my vote as my favourite tournament of the year.

Stephen (Fleming) and I have known each other for a few years now, from his playing days as captain of the National Cricket Team for New Zealand to being the coach of Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League.

We have been talking about playing together for a couple of years now and it’s great that it’s happening this time. We played in a cricket match at the Millbrook Cricket Ground earlier this week and we have been paired together in the tournament as well.

He is one of my childhood heroes on the cricket field and to be able to partner with him is a real honour for me.

My wife and daughter are here with me this week. We made a trip to Milford Sound yesterday and it was absolutely stunning. We went by plane through the mountains. It was really worth the trip.

Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha)

It’s great to be back here in New Zealand. The sceneries that you see at the golf courses are beautiful. I was eager to come back here, having played here for the first-time last year. I got here on Sunday, played at the Millbrook Resort yesterday and The Hills today.

The course at the Millbrook Resort requires a good game plan and strategy. You need to know where to place the ball. Both courses are birdie-making courses. The conditions are great and the views are perfect. I am sure we will see some low scores again this year.

I think it is good fun playing in this pro-am format. Playing with the amateurs will kind of help you stay relaxed out there. Sometimes you won’t even feel like it’s a real tournament. It can be a good thing actually because you can play like it’s your weekend golf and stay chill out there.

At least it’s good for me. I take the pressure out of it. That’s when I play my best golf. I am enjoying a much better start to the year, as compared to previous years. I had a good season in 2018 and I am riding on that good form into this new season.

I got my card on the Japan Golf Tour this year as well so I am going to try and play good on both Tours although it’s not going to be easy. I am going to keep it sharp and keep practicing. Another win on the Asian Tour would be good for me. That will be my goal this year.

Daniel Nisbet (Aus) – Defending champion

It’s amazing to be back here. The sceneries are beautiful and it’s always nice to be in New Zealand, whether I am defending the title or not. It’s an amazing feeling coming back to this whole area. It’s the right feeling to have, I think.

I won in Queensland last week so it’s nice to come into my title defence this week in good form. I think the win came at the right time. I played pretty well over the summer. I just had to tweak a few things and I felt like I played it right. Choices and changes to my game as well. Hopefully I can be in contention again.

Since winning last year, I have been pretty busy and was playing with a couple of injuries. But I think it’s under control now. Just a few nitty-gritties with my shoulder.

We played the Millbrook Resort course more times last year so obviously, we had more experience there. But I also played good on this course at The Hills. I love both courses. Both have got difference aspects of where you need to be stronger.

Around Millbrook, you probably got to be a bit stronger off the tees and over at The Hills, you probably need to be strong on the greens. Both courses are tough and it will be challenging.

I don’t have any superstitions or anything like that. It took a combination of a lot of things for me to win the tournament last year. I played well and I was just trying to capitalize what I was doing well. I was hitting the ball well so I kept hitting driver. Obviously didn’t compensate my putter as well.

That win last year got me high up on the money list on the PGA Tour of Australasia. I got my Asian Tour card as well. Three years on the Asian Tour is definitely going to help my game. The Asian Tour has grown from strength to strength as well so it’s great to be part of that Tour.

The doors to the European Tour have also been opening up through the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia too so it has become very busy for me. But I need to be busy. There is so much to play for, access to the European Tour and the opportunities to play in bigger events like the WGCs.

I wish I had been a little bit more consistent especially towards the end of last year. The amount of effort and energy that has been put in to this 100th New Zealand Open has been incredible. I am very lucky to be defending my title in such a significant event. It’s been a real pleasure this week. I just hope I can get into contention again this week.

Jazz Janewattananond (Tha)

It’s my first time here in New Zealand. It’s been really nice so far. I didn’t expect this place to be so beautiful. I am enjoying myself out here and I think that’s the key to playing good golf. You need to first enjoy the place that you’re in before you can play well.

I heard a lot of good things about New Zealand after missing the event last year. The players who played were all saying it’s the most beautiful venue on the Asian Tour schedule and that I have to come and see it myself.

Having played in Perth two weeks ago, I thought I should just stay on in Australia and come to New Zealand to play in this prestigious event this week since it’s not too far away. I spent a week in Melbourne with my good friend Marcus Both.

We played the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, which is the venue for the President’s Cup this year. I have not qualified for the International team but who knows, I might get lucky! The aim is to keep playing well and try my best to get into the bigger events this year.

A few tournaments are coming up too so I still have a good chance to boost my world ranking and get into the upcoming Majors and World Golf Championships. It’s been great since winning the Singapore Open. My schedule has changed since as I planned to play quite a few events in Japan this year as well.

I played nine holes at the Millbrook Resort already and I really like it but it might be a tough walk here at The Hills (laughs). But it’s really scenic and very beautiful out here. It’s my first time playing in pro-am format too. I am looking forward to it.

Miguel Tabuena (Phi)

It’s a long way here from home but I have heard so much good things about Queenstown and that’s what makes me want to play here this week. It’s going to be pretty tough playing the two golf courses for the first time but will do the usual homework and see how it goes.

I am for sure going to enjoy the beautiful sceneries this week! It’s not my first time in New Zealand. I have been to Auckland before but it’s my first time in Queenstown. The game’s feeling good. Hopefully the practice that I have done will pay off this week.

One of my key goals this year is to get into the World Golf Championships so I am working towards that. A good result this week will help. I had some positives to take from Perth as well. I was nine-under after 10 holes and that was my lowest ever start in a tournament.

I had a pretty solid year last year. I am doing pretty much the same things. Nothing much has change. Same practice routines, etc. It’s my first time playing in this pro-am format so I am looking forward to it. It can be a bit challenging but it will be a good experience.

Nicholas Fung (Mas)

I am really excited to be here. It’s my first time in New Zealand. I have heard a lot from my friends who have been here, saying that Queenstown is a really beautiful place and I need to come and witness it myself.

Now that I am here, I am glad I made the decision to play this week! I heard about the activities you can do here as well, like the bungee jump and the popular jet boat rides in Queenstown. Miguel (Tabuena) and I are planning to go  so we’re really looking forward to that.

I have been playing good so far this season. I hope I can continue to play well and build up my confidence level. This is my last year of exemption from my win in 2017. I have been working really hard on my game and trying my best to improve, especially on my putting.

The goal is to cap some good results early this season and lock my card for 2020 so I can get the monkey off my back. But having said that, I am always looking for a win. A good result this week would also put my game in good shape for the upcoming Maybank Championship back home.

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 26: Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand hopes to make his maiden trip to New Zealand a memorable one when he tees up for the centennial New Zealand Open which starts on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Thai will spearhead a strong Asian Tour challenge which features compatriots Panuphol Pittayarat and Poom Saksansin, as well as India’s Shiv Kapur, Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines and Nicholas Fung of Malaysia, all winners on the region’s premier Tour.

Founded in 1907, the tournament is one of New Zealand’s leading sporting events with a long and prestigious history. It will be played for the 100th time in 2019 at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown and offers a prize purse of NZ$1,250,000 (approx. US$850,000).

Defending champion Daniel Nisbet of Australia, Korea’s K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang, the first Asian to win a Major championship, are also set to headline the long-running event that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

Like Jazz, Tabuena and Fung are also making their debut appearances at the New Zealand Open this week. The pair, who share the same room this week, are relishing their first trips to Queenstown.

Apart from taking in the scenic views that Queenstown has to offer, Tabuena and Fung are also planning to include jet rides and bungee jumps in their itineraries this week.

A total of 152 professionals from 17 countries will play the first two rounds alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the second round cut of top 60 and ties.

The final two rounds will be played at The Hills and the New Zealand Open Champion will be the leading player after 72 holes of stroke play.

The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.

Some of the Pro-Am celebrities to look out for include Black Caps legend Stephen Fleming, former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, Tom Walsh, the world indoor and outdoor champion shot putter and newly-crowned New Zealand Sportsman of The Year, as well as Hayden Paddon, a former World Rally Championship driver.

Did you know?

  • Jazz Janewattananond, who leads the latest Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, is making his debut appearance at the storied New Zealand Open this week.
  • The rising star from Thailand is eyeing a good showing to boost his rankings on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), where he sits in a current 78th place. He needs to break into top-64 by March 18 to qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
  • Jazz broke into the world’s top-100 for the first time in his career after claiming his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open last month. That victory also earned him a coveted spot in The Open, where he made his Major debut last year.
  • He followed up that victory with a tied-13th place finish at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, where he made it into the Sunday match play for the first time in three attempts and came close to knocking out eventual winner Ryan Fox in the second round of the match play.
  • In his last 10 starts, Jazz has collected six top-10s, including a second-place finish at the 2018 BNI Indonesian Masters and a third-place result at the 2018 Queen’s Cup Hosted by Jaidee Foundation.
  • Miguel Tabuena, 24, ended a three-year title drought when he won his second Asian Tour title at the Queen’s Cup in Thailand last November.
  • Two weeks ago in Perth, Tabuena matched the Asian Tour’s record for the lowest nine-hole score in relation to par when he opened his campaign with seven straight birdies and added another birdie on the 18th to turn in 28.
  • Nicholas Fung, 28, claimed his first victory at the 2017 Queen’s Cup and dedicated that victory to his father on Father’s Day last year.
  • Fung had a season to remember in 2013 when he won the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit thanks to one victory and three runner-up finishes. He rose more than 1000 spots in the world rankings to 239th at the end of the 2013 season.

By Olle Nordberg

With lucrative events such as the World Golf Championships,  Majors and the Players Championship looming, players are all vying to boost their rankings on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).

Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who sits in 36th place on the OWGR following his tied-third place finish in Mexico, has sealed his tickets to all the WGCs and Majors this year.

Last week’s WGC Mexico Championship saw several Asian Tour members competing. Kiradech enjoyed a great week in the $10 million event where he picked up 22.56 valuable OWGR points to move up to nine rungs to 36th place.

  • Justin Harding – Currently number 71 on the OWGR and with 3 top 11 finishes in his last 4 events is very close to the Top 64 Available Players needed to qualify for the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas in the end of March. The cutoff date is March 18, but a good finish in the Oman Open this week on the European Tour could put him inside this number. The US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York on May 16-19 will usually give a Special Exemption to players ranked within the OWGR Top 100, and Harding earned one of these spots last year after winning the Bank BRI Indonesia Open and King’s Cup in consecutive events in 2018.
  • Jazz Janewattananond – Now in 78th place on the OWGR and will need a great event at this week’s New Zealand Open to get inside the Top 64. A win would most likely be enough to put him inside this number and depending on how far the top 64 available spots drop down possibly also a solo second. Jazz is also currently in line for one of the Special Exemption spots into the US PGA Championship.

For both players, the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia April 11-14 is also within reach, although an even tougher task. Being inside the Top 50 on the OWGR as of March 31 would land them with an invitation to Augusta and follow in Shubhankar Sharma’s footsteps from last year following his win at the Maybank Championship.

Sentosa, Singapore, February 26: Most golfers wait years to get a hole-in-one, American Austen Truslow on the other hand managed his second ace in a span of two months at the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday.

The talented 23-year-old announced his arrival in Asia in dramatic style when he captured a career-first ace in December en route to topping the class at the Asian Tour Qualifying School.

Entering the final round in 36th position, the Florida native knew he had much work cut out to finish inside the top-10 and earn a spot to this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens on the PGA TOUR.

The American traded four birdies against one bogey in the front nine to make the turn in 33. Truslow then recovered with a birdie on hole 10 before dropping the second shot of the day on hole 14.

“At that point I told myself that I needed a miracle on the last four holes so that I can get into the Honda Classic,” said the American.

Standing tall in the midst of pressure, the American safely made par on hole 15 before conjuring the same magic he did at Qualifying School to make a stellar ace on hole 16 with his eight-iron from 202 yards.

“That was unbelievable. After that I was just more relaxed and just kept hitting shots. I hit two great shots on 17 and had 10-feet for birdie, but I just missed the putt on the high side,” added Truslow, who ended his campaign with a six-under-par 66 after a par on 17 and another birdie on 18.

Playing his fifth week in a row since earning his card in Thailand, Truslow will have to shrug off his fatigue as he prepares for the Honda Classic that gets underway this Thursday.

“Right now, I’m actually not as pumped up as I normally would be. This will be my fifth straight week competing and I’ve been in a different time zone every week. I’m sure it’ll change when I get to Palm Beach,” added Truslow.

Queenstown, New Zealand, February 26: Olle Nordberg provides his insights from the front lines ahead of the storied New Zealand Open, which has attracted more than 30 Asian Tour champions and 13 past winners to its 100th edition this week.

By Olle Nordberg. 

This week’s New Zealand Open in Queenstown may be a recent event on the Asian Tour only making its first appearance on the schedule in 2018, but the event certainly has a long history going all the way back to 1907 and making this year the 100th edition of the championship.

This is the second consecutive event that is co-sanctioned with the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and like in 2018, it will be played over two courses, Millbrook Resort and The Hills, in a Pro-Am format.

These two courses have hosted the event since 2014 and have produced some spectacular scoring and champions such as Daniel Nisbet (2018), Michael Hendry (2017), Mathew Griffin (2016), Jordan Zunic (2015) and Dimitrios Papadatos (2014).

Especially the 2018 edition provided some fireworks in the last round, when Nisbet shot a final round of 62 (-9) to overtake Terry Pilkadaris and win the title by two shots with a total of 27 under par 258.

The defending champion Daniel Nisbet seems poised for a strong defence this week, coming off a six-shot win at last week’s Coca Cola QLD Championship in Toowoomba.

In addition to the recent past winners gathered at the New Zealand Open this week, other challengers to the title may come from the following players who are enjoying a recent run of good form:

  • Ryan Fox – Winner of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth two weeks ago, and the highest ranked player on the OWGR in the field this week at 68th place. By winning in Perth, he also managed to jump high enough on the OWGR to get into the WGC-Mexico Championship last week.

Being played in a Pro-Am format, the course setup may be a bit kinder than the average Asian Tour event, with the rough not quite as thick and pin positions not as tricky as usual. For example, if we compare the GIR stat numbers from this event last year to the GIR average of the Top 100 Asian Tour players in 2018, we can see a noticeable difference.

In 2018, the players that made the cut at New Zealand Open had a GIR average of 81.1%, while the Top 100 Asian Tour players averaged 67.8% for the 2018 season. The highest-ranked player in this category last year was Paul Peterson with a 74.5% GIR. Based on this and Top 10 statistics from last year’s event, it may suggest that putting will be even more important than usual, and that the winner and top finishers might be found among the players that rank highly in this statistic.


Mexico City, February 25: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat clenched his fist after his last putt of the day disappeared into the ground at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.

It was partly due to the fact that a third straight birdie at Club de Golf Chapultepec had given him a third three-under-par 68 of the week and good for a career best tied-third in a World Golf Championships event.

More importantly, the 29-year-old was also relieved to put behind a string of lacklustre performances that shook his confidence while competing in his first full season on the PGA TOUR.

“I’ve been playing really tight all days, just waiting until the time was coming. I was even par after 15 holes, which is a top day for me. I just put a lot of pressure on myself, I wanted to do well here. The last few birdies mean a lot to me,” said Kiradech.

Starting the day in tied-seventh position, Kiradech started his final round with a three-putt bogey on the third hole but gained the shot back on five with a seven-foot birdie conversion. He parred the next 10 holes before finishing in a flourish with three closing birdies.

He knocked it to 18 inches on 16 and then wedged it to four feet on 17 and 18 to close the week on 11-under-par 273, 10 shots behind winner Dustin Johnson who cruised to a five-shot triumph over Rory McIlroy for his sixth WGC win and 20th PGA TOUR career victory.

“The greens are really difficult. If you’re not careful, it can hurt. I stayed patient all day. I’m still thinking off the tee that I can make a couple birdie at the end and then, I finally got it done,” said Kiradech, the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card.

He arrived in Mexico low on confidence after missing the cut in three of his last four starts including at last week’s Genesis Open in Los Angeles where he bogeyed three of his last four holes to miss the weekend rounds by one shot. He was especially hurt by the poor finish, especially when it was done in the company of Presidents Cup International Team captain Ernie Els.

Kiradech’s career best WGC outing was worth 151.66 FedExCup points, which lifted him to 52nd position on the latest standing as he fights to make the FedExCup Playoffs in August. He earned US$472,000 in Mexico City, rose nine rungs to 36th on the Official World Golf Ranking and should move up to around the top-15 position on the International Team standings for the Presidents Cup after the starting the week in 31st place. The top-eight players earn automatic selection with Els having four captain’s picks.

“I say the last three birdies are a big thing for me. It gives me a lift and shows I should just go and play my own game. It’s been a great week,” said Kiradech.

China’s Haotong Li closed with his week’s best of 67 to share 19th position with amongst others, Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, who is the lone Asian to win a WGC title.


Mexico City: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat kept himself in position to notch a career fourth top-five in a World Golf Championships event when he fired a three-under 68 in the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship to move up one rung to tied-seventh on Saturday.

Kiradech, 29, began the day with an easy birdie at the reachable par-four opening hole at Club de Golf Chapultepec before adding four more birdies on six, 11, 12 and 18 against dropped shots on seven and 16.

His three-day total of eight-under 205 will see Kiradech, the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card, start the final round on Sunday eight shots back of runaway leader Dustin Johnson, who now leads by four from Rory McIlroy after a masterclass 66 put him out well in front on 197.

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, the only Asian to win a WGC event, produced a 67 to move to tied-16 on 209 while Haotong Li of China fought to a level par 71 for tied-30. Korea’s Byeong Hun An shot eight birdies against a lone bogey for the joint best score of the day with a 64 for tied-46 while India’s Shubhankar Sharma carded a 70 for tied-54.

Kiradech’s iron play helped deliver some easy birdies, chipping close on the first hole to three feet to snare his first birdie and then ending his round in style with a wedge approach shot to six feet of the pin in front of appreciative Mexican fans.

“I’m happy with my game. I started well with an easy birdie and I putted okay for my other birdies. The greens are still a bit tricky to read and I did miss some makeable chances but overall, it was a good score,” said Kiradech, who arrived in Mexico on the back of three missed cuts in his last four starts.

The likeable Thai finished tied-fifth here 12 months ago for his career first top-five in a WGC which sparked a superb year that featured two other top-5fives in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He’s hoping to keep his foot firmly on the pedal to keep his WGC run going.

“I feel I’m swinging it good and hopefully I can continue tomorrow and play another under par round. It’s nice to start putting in some good scores and I guess it’s due to the work that I’ve put in recently to get my game back up after the year-end break. I’ll keep trying again and see if I can finish as high as I can. Hopefully I can hole a few more putts which will be very nice. It’s been fun coming back to play in Mexico and it’ll be especially good if I can finish well to end the week on a good note,” he said.

Tiger Woods, making his debut in the event, shot a 70 for T9, 10 shots back of Johnson who is chasing a sixth career WGC title.

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