Boonchu Eyes Third Triumph at Myanmar Open

Yangon, February 11: Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit is hoping to rediscover his winning touch quickly as he aims for a third title at the Myanmar Open which starts on Thursday.

The evergreen Boonchu has enjoyed a rich vein of form recently which saw him lift the Thailand Open last month where he became the eldest winner in Asia at the age of 47 years.

He followed that up with an equally impressive tied fourth outing in the tri-sanctioned Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok, closing with a superb 65 and finishing ahead of superstar and title-holder Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie.

But after the lucrative two-week spell which saw him pocket over US$110,000 – already his best haul in eight seasons – the smooth-swinging Thai said today that he has “lost some of his feel.”

“Last week, I took a complete break from golf for four days. I started practising again at the weekend and I’ve seemed to have lost my feel. My driver was going left and right during my practice rounds and I’m hoping it’ ll all come back on Thursday,” said Boonchu, winner of back-to-back Myanmar Open titles in 1996 and 1997.

Boonchu’s new lease of life has provided one of the stories so far in Asian golf this season and he explained the terrific run was because he was a lot wiser around the golf course.

“I’ve played well in the last few events as my course management has been very good. I’m thinking my way around the course, taking it one shot at a time,” said Boonchu, who is currently third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

“I’ve won on this Yangon layout previously so that helps with my confidence. You need to be really patient out here and hopefully, I can get into position to challenge for the title on Sunday.”

Boonchu’s hat-trick bid will be up against a top field which has assembled for the ninth staging of the Myanmar Open. No less than 29 Tour winners, including defending champion Lin Keng-chi of Taiwan and last season’s winners Thongchai Jaidee, Marcus Both, Mike Cunning and Lin Wen-ko are vying for the top cheque of US$32,300.

Japan Tour regulars Frankie Minoza of the Philippines, Taiwanese trio Yeh Chang-ting, Hsieh Chin-sheng and Chen Tze-chung and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh are also in the field.

The 44-year-old Minoza, a six-time winner in Japan, is hoping to shake off early-season rust and challenge for the title here as he did in 1999 when he finished tied second. His last tournament success was at the 2001 Fuji Sankei Classic in Japan.

“I first played at Yangon Golf Club in 1979 as an amateur and it’s been a while since I’ve been here. I always try to support the Tour in Asia,” said Minoza, only one of four players to shoot a 61 in the region.

“I’m hitting the ball good in practice but I’m sure I’ll be rusty initially. I struggled in Japan last season with my putting but managed to keep my card. I’m still working hard at my game and feel I still have a few wins left in me. It’s just a matter of luck.”

Title-holder Lin will be hoping to repeat last year’s imperious triumph where he won by three strokes ahead of Thailand’s Thongchai after holding at least the share of the lead from the opening round.

“I’m striking the ball well but I need to acclimatise to the hot weather here. It’s always nice to come back to a tournament where you’ve won in the past as there are good memories,” said Lin, Asia’s number one in 1995.

Myanmar’s Kyi Hla Han, Zaw Moe and Aung Win will carry the local charge. No home player has won the Myanmar Open since its inception in 1996.

About the Myanmar Open:
The Myanmar Open is celebrating its ninth year in 2004. Event sponsors include Rothmans of Pall Mall Myanmar Pte. Limited, co-sponsor Myanmar Airways International, Sedona Hotel Yangon, the official hotel of the Myanmar Open, Wilson, the official ball, and Grand Slam (Munsingwear), Inetol (Headwear Company), Canon (Accel International Co. Ltd.), Maruman (Kaung Myat Co. Ltd), Dagon Beer (Dagon Brewery Company Limited), MIMS LOGISTICS, Max Myanmar Co. Ltd., United Paints Group (UPG) and Alpine Purified Drinking Water (Loi Hein Co. Ltd.) as official suppliers.