Fiji, August 16: Malaysia’s rising star Gavin Green will be seeking more success when he tees up at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course for the Fiji International which starts on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Green has enjoyed a standout season so far, claiming three top-10 results, including two runner-up finishes in India and Chinese Taipei, to sit in fourth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Having enjoyed a relaxing sunset cruise in Fiji on Monday, Green believes he is ready for the challenge at the A$1.5 million (approximately US$1.14 million) event which is tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the first time.
The young Malaysian is wary of the blustery conditions at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, which bared its teeth with swirling winds of up to 20 km per hour in the pro-am tournament today.
Like Green, Thai prodigy Phachara Khongwatmai is also chasing his breakthrough victory on the region’s premier Tour. The 18-year-old Phachara is hoping a slight adjustment in his swing will pay off when he tees off in his tournament debut this week.
India’s Chikkarangappa S., who claimed a top-10 finish on home soil two weeks ago, will have his confidence boosted by memories of his past experience at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, a venue where he last played there as an amateur six years ago.
Did you know?
- Green holds the record of being the first amateur to win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) following his victory at the PGM Vascory Templer Park Championship in 2014. He turned professional in 2015 and added two more wins on the region’s secondary circuit in 2016.
- Green, who was ranked 12th in the world amateur rankings before joining the play-for-pay ranks, finished second on the 2016 ADT Order of Merit to earn his playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2017 season.
- Green was invited by Tourism Fiji for a private boat cruise on Monday alongside Ben Campbell of New Zealand and fellow Asian Tour players Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand and American Casey O’Toole. The players cruised out to the Malamala Island for a swim stop as well as some jet ski fun.
- Placed third on the Order of Merit, Phachara is the highest ranked Asian Tour player in the field this week. He has enjoyed two runner-up finishes in India and Australia so far this season.
- Phachara became the youngest winner on the ADT when he won in 2015 at the age of 15. He also holds the world record of being the youngest winner in a professional golf tournament when he won a domestic event in July 2013 as an amateur at the age of 14.
- Chikkarangappa represented his home country at the 2011 Nomura Cup, where he played two rounds as an amateur at the Natodola Bay Championship Golf Course. The 23-year-old finished tied-seventh in the individual category and third as a team alongside his compatriots.
“The course is easy without the wind but with the wind, it can be quite a beast! I think you need to be a good ball striker to get your way around here. It’s tight off the tee, especially when the wind comes, and it can get pretty tough.” – Gavin Green, 23
Gavin Green (Mas)
The boat trip on Monday was really fun. It was something that I have never experienced before. It’s been a long time since I last got on a jet ski. It was really fun with the boys – Panuphol Pittayarat, Casey O’Toole and Ben Campbell. I like it a lot. It’s nice because it gets you away from golf.
The course is easy without the wind but with the wind, it can be quite a beast! I think you need to be a good ball striker to get your way around here. It’s tight off the tee, especially when the wind comes, and it can get pretty tough.
I like it in the wind though. It’s not going to be easy for anyone when the wind blows hard, obviously. It won’t be easy at all so we just have to see what the wind will do to us when the tournament starts.
It will be a good test. It’s a fair course. The long hitters have an advantage as they can hit it far, if they want to hit it into a tighter spot. But if they don’t want to, they can always lay-up. It’s a pretty fair course. If you take the chance, you will be rewarded. It’s good, I like it. It’s a course that you have to think around well.
Before coming here, I have heard about the strong winds here and getting into trouble here can be quite penalizing and it’s indeed true.
It’s been great here in Fiji so far. I will definitely come back here again for a holiday. It’s comfortable and it’s like paradise but when you get to the course, you know you’re here to do your job.
We have got a pretty strong field this week, with three Major winners. It’s been a solid season for me so far but we will see how it goes. Hopefully the weather holds up and I can make the cut comfortably, then we see how it’s going to be in the weekend.
Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha)
This course is really challenging, especially when the wind picks up. I just had my coach to fix my down swing a bit when I went back home to Thailand last week so everything feels good for me right now.
I have been playing quite a bit over the last few months so it’s good to get back home and catch up with my coach last week. It’s nice to be here in a new country this week. It’s really beautiful here. I just want to play my best.
The season has been pleasing for me so far. I had some opportunities to play in Europe as well and I’ve learnt a lot about the course, the weather and the playing conditions there. It’s all good experience.
It will surely be tough if the wind continues to blow like how it did today. But then again, everyone is playing in the same conditions. I won’t give myself too much pressure. I will just deal with it step by step.
Chikkarangappa S. (Ind)
I had a good week in India two weeks ago and it’s good to come here with some good momentum. I had some good memories here in Fiji too. I played the Nomura Cup on the same course when I was still an amateur in 2011 and I finished tied-seventh in the individual category and my team came in third.
It’s great to be back here after six years although a lot has changed here. The course is still in a great shape. The wind wasn’t blowing that much when I played my practice rounds the last two days. But today, it’s blowing hard. I think it’s going to get more difficult when the tournament starts but I am looking forward to it.
The game’s feeling good. I made a couple of changes and I had a good one month off before the TAKE Solutions Masters two weeks ago. I spent a lot of time with my coach and it has been really helpful. I played solid in India that week and I am looking to bring on the good form into this week.
You need to hit more fairways and greens to score on this course, given how the wind is blowing. Putting will be key but you need to keep the ball in play. The first half of the season hasn’t been good for me but I’m starting to pick up some good momentum heading into the second half. Last year I played really good in the second half too.
About the Fiji International
To be held from 17-20 August the Fiji International will be played at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course which boasts breathtaking views of the Coral Coast and is home to the Natadola Beach Land Estate.
Enticed by the tropical destination, the Fiji International has attracted some of the world’s best golfers since its inaugural staging in 2014 including Fijian hero and three time Major champion Vijay Singh, 2016 champion Brandt Snedeker, 2015 champion Matt Kuchar, 2014 champion Steven Jeffress, Steven Bowditch, Boo Weekley, Nick Price, Robert Allenby, Heath Slocum, Liang Wenchong, and Anirban Lahiri.
In 2017, the Fiji International continues to have a global presence confirming its position as an integral tournament in the South Pacific region, with the tournament being tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
A Pacific paradise, the Fiji International also boasts some of the most unique hospitality options in world golf with the par-3 8th hole providing the perfect vantage point to watch the golf, whilst socialising on the beach.
More than just a golf tournament, the Fiji International aims to leave a lasting legacy for golf in the Pacific region, with the PGA of Australia supporting initiatives to introduce and grow the game in Fiji.
Owned by SEL and the PGA of Australia, the Fiji International is proudly supported by the Fijian Government, Tourism Fiji and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa as the official resort of the tournament until 2017.
For more information about the Fiji International please visit fijiinternational.com.
About Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), FENIX XCell (Official Apparel Supplier), Titleist (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). Sentosa, Singapore is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
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