Mauritius, November 28: Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai will have a point to prove when he makes his second appearance at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open which starts on Thursday.
The 18-year-old qualified for Team Asia in the 2018 EurAsia Cup and he hopes to show his worth by contending for the title at the €1million (approximately US$1.07 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour and European Tour.
Phachara will be among a star-studded cast on the holiday-isle of Mauritius which includes Major champion Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, George Coetzee of South Africa, who won the inaugural event in 2015 and reigning Asian Tour number one Scott Hend of Australia.
Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, who agonisingly missed out on victory last year, will also feature in the event alongside Shiv Kapur of India, the only player to win multiple titles on the Asian Tour this year, and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at the Heritage Le Telfair Golf and Spa Resort.
Phachara, currently ranked fifth on the Order of Merit, has enjoyed a solid year but he is still chasing the elusive first win on the Asian Tour. After finishing runner-up twice in 2017, the young Thai hopes to finally go one spot better at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
Siddikur, who is a two-time Asian Tour winner, hopes to recover from a back injury as he has unfinished business in the event. The Bangladeshi was leading the tournament heading into the final three holes before a double bogey on 16 and a bogey on 17 dashed his title hopes.
S.S.P. Chawrasia will make his debut in the event after finishing seventh in Hong Kong last week after leading in the opening three rounds. It will be an important week for the Indian as he aims to chase down Merit leader Gavin Green of Malaysia, who he trails by slightly more than US$140,000.
Did you know?
- Phachara made his debut at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open last year where he finished in tied 34th place albeit on a different golf course.
- The young Thai enjoyed a hot start to the season when he claimed two runner-up results in Singapore and at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth.
- He played regularly on the European Tour in 2017 without much success but said that the experience will help him in his young career. He returned to Asia later in the season and finished tied third at the Resorts World Manila Masters.
- He will make his debut in the EurAsia Cup next year after qualifying for the team match-play event against Team Europe as one of the four leading Asians on the Order of Merit after the Hong Kong Open.
- The lanky Phachara is one of the most promising players to emerge from Thailand. At the age of 14, he became the youngest amateur to win a professional tournament in the world. He also played at The Open in 2016 and 2017.
- Siddikur is the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour. He is currently struggling to recover from a back injury which forced him to retire from the third round of the Hong Kong Open last week.
- Last year’s result in Mauritius helped Siddikur qualify for the Olympics. An inspiration to many in his country, Siddikur was given the honour to be the flagbearer for Bangladesh in the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
- Like Phachara, Chawrasia will also represent Asia in the EurAsia Cup next year. The Indian is enjoying a great season so far highlighted by his successful title defence at the Hero Indian Open in March.
- In his last three events on the Asian Tour, Chawrasia finished tied second, tied 10th and tied seventh place.
- With four more events left on the Asian Tour Schedule, Chawrasia needs a solid result or a victory this week to stand a chance of winning the prestigious Order of Merit for the first time in his career. Hend, third on the ranking, and leader Green are also in the field.
Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha)
I started well this year but in the middle of the year I struggled a bit on the European Tour. It was a new experience to play in Europe this year but I learnt a lot. I’m playing better now I had a good finish in the Philippines. My game is okay but I haven’t been consistent.
It is my first time playing in Mauritius and I’m really looking forward to it. It is a beautiful island and golf course. I don’t have any pressure to win my first Asian Tour title because I’m only 18. If it comes then great but if not, I will continue to work hard.
I’m so happy I qualified for Team Asia for the EurAsia Cup. It is an exciting event against Team Europe. This is a result of my hard work and good finishes on the Asian Tour this year. I hope I can make captain Arjun (Atwal) and Asia proud. If I can do well this week, I think it will be good for me and the team. I want to give myself as many good results as I can before the EurAsia Cup next year.
Siddikur Rahman (Ban)
I have good memory in Mauritius and I played really good golf. I’m excited to make my return. It was really challenging last year and I really liked the windy conditions and I played so well. It will be a different golf course this year but I’m expecting the same conditions.
Mauritius is very similar to Asia. The culture is almost the same. My wife will follow me so that’s very nice because she loves the island life.
S.S.P. Chawrasia (Ind)
I’m really happy to play there because it is my first time. I’m really excited to play here because I heard it is very similar to home. There is a lot of Indian culture and I will see a lot of Indian community so I will feel comfortable there.
My form is really good at the moment. If you look at the last few weeks you will see that I’m playing so good except for the final round. All I need to do now is to play consistently in all four rounds.
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