Taipei, September 30: The Asian Tour is primed for a two-week swing in Chinese Taipei starting with the prestigious Mercuries Taiwan Masters this week. We take a look at the elite field and pick the players whom we think will contend in the US$650,000 event, which is the longest-running event on the Asian Tour.
Cameron Smith (Aus)
Smith became the Asian Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2014 after finishing fifth on the Order of Merit, thanks to seven top-10 finishes. The 22-year-old Australian marked a memorable Major debut following an impressive tied-fourth finish at the US Open in June, which earned him playing rights on the PGA Tour for the remaining of the 2015 season. He also earned a special invitation to play in the PGA Championship in August where he came in tied-25th. Smith enjoyed a tie-sixth finish at the Tamsui course last year. Ranked seventh on the Order of Merit, Smith will be aiming for another good showing to maintain his ranking in top-10 to qualify for the CIMB Classic next month.
Last 5 finishes: T18, T25, T39, T4, MC
Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha)
Thaworn enjoyed a top-five finish at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last year. He is a two-time Order of Merit winner on the Asian Tour and holds an unprecedented 18 titles on the region’s premier Tour. He will challenge for a record 19th victory when he tees up at the Tamsui course on Thursday.
Last 5 finishes: T63, T15, 66, MC, T10
Chan Shih-chang (Twn)
Chan is the highest-ranked local player in 354th position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Chan capped an impressive season on the Asian Development Tour in 2014 after finishing second on the Order of Merit following three victories. Earlier in May, he claimed a record fifth ADT title on home soil after winning the inaugural Ambassador ADT event on his home course.
Last 5 finishes: T48, T18, T17, T10, T20
Lu Wei-chih (Twn)
Lu is a three-time winner on the Asian Tour and two of his wins came at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2005 and 2011. Lu will be banking on his home course advantage to steer himself back into the winner’s circle when he tees up at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters.
Last 5 finishes: MC, T4, MC, T12, MC
Pan Cheng-tsung (Twn)
Pan is one of the hot favourites at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters this week as it is his first professional event on home soil since joining the play-for-pay ranks in June. In just 100 days since turning professional, Pan has claimed two victories in Canada to finish second on the PGA Tour Canada’s Order of Merit this season. Pan has enjoyed a successful amateur career prior to turning professional where he was the top amateur in the world for eight consecutive weeks in 2013.
Last 5 finishes: T27, 1, T3, T11, T42
Lin Wen-tang (Twn)
Lin is one of most successful professional golfers in Chinese Taipei. He holds a total of six victories on the Asian Tour, which include a win at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2009. He enjoyed his finest year in 2008, winning two titles and finishing second on the Order of Merit. His biggest career victory to date was winning the 2008 UBS Hong Kong Open in a three-way play-off. Fresh from a tied-third finish on the Asian Development Tour last week, Lin will be gunning for a seventh Asian Tour victory when he tees up at the Tamsui course on Thursday.
Last 5 finishes: T3, WD, 2, MC, T5
Lu Wen-teh (Twn)
Lu holds a total of five titles on the Asian Tour. Even into his 40s, he showed he could still win at the highest level when he won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2008 on his home course for a record fourth time.
Last 5 finishes: T17, T30, T40, T57, T24
Mardan Mamat (Sin)
Mardan claimed his fifth Asian Tour title at the inaugural Banshundhara Bangladesh Open in May. He holds the honour of being Singapore’s first winner on the Asian Tour and is also the first player from his country to win a co-sanctioned tournament with Europe. With a current ranking of 276th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Mardan is in the frame to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Placed 11th on the Order of Merit, Mardan will need a good result this week to break into top-10 and qualify for the CIMB Classic next month.
Last 5 finishes: T44, 69, T28, MC, MC
Antonio Lascuna (Phi)
Lascuna enjoyed a tied-second finish at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last year. He came close to winning his maiden Asian Tour title on three occasions in 2014 and finish the season in a career-high nine position on the Order of Merit. With a current ranking of 272nd on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Lascuna is in the frame to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Last 5 finishes: T9, T20, T23, T28, T3