Joburg, South Africa, December 5: Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai hopes to qualify for The Open for the third time when he makes his debut at the Joburg Open which gets underway on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Phachara played at The Open in 2016 and 2017 after earning a spot through the Qualifying Series Thailand and Singapore respectively. He is now aiming for one of the three tickets available at the Randpark Golf Club.
The Joburg Open will form part of The Open Qualifying Series where the leading three players in the top-10 who are not already exempt will qualify for The Open in 2018.
The talented Thai, ranked sixth on the Order of Merit, will contend for the title against an elite field which includes Major champion and home favourite Louis Oosthuizen, Dylan Frittelli, who won last week and Gavin Green of Malaysia at the R16.5 million (approximately US$1.2 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour and European Tour.
The Joburg Open, which is the first event to be sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Sunshine Tour in South Africa, will be played over two courses – Firethorn and Bushwillow. The weekend rounds will be staged at Firethorn.
This will be Phachara’s 28th tournament in 2017 where he has notched two runner-up results and a tied third finish at the Resorts World Manila Masters last month. With a solid season so far, the young Thai hopes to make it even better by winning his first Asian Tour title this week.
China’s Liu Yan-wei was delighted to receive an invitation to be among the 240-man field at the Joburg Open. He hopes to maintain his fine form after finishing third at the inaugural KG S&H City Asian Golf Championship in China last week.
He is currently ranked 64th on the Order of Merit and will need to break into the top-60 in the final Merit ranking to secure full playing rights on the 2018 Asian Tour season.
Did you know?
- Phachara made his debut at The Open in 2016 after finishing sixth at the 2015 Thailand Golf Championship. Earlier this year, he finished tied second at the SMBC Singapore Open to make a swift return to the year’s third Major tournament.
- It has been a solid 2017 season for the young Thai who is still searching for a first Asian Tour victory. This year, he has travelled across the globe to 20 difference countries. The Joburg Open will be his first appearance in South Africa.
- Phachara was also rewarded for a fine year by qualifying for Team Asia in the 2018 EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM.
- When he was 14, Phachara won as an amateur to become the youngest ever player to win a professional tournament in the world.
- Liu and Wu Ashun are the only players from China who will be playing in this week’s Joburg Open.
- The talented Liu will have a big week ahead of him as he tries to secure a full Asian Tour card for 2018. He finished third last week on home soil, just one shot shy of joining the play-off.
- Liu will play in this week’s event after earning a sponsor’s invitation. It will also be his first time playing in the Joburg Open.
- Ranked 35th on the Order of Merit, Danthai Boonma of Thailand is playing in this week’s Joburg Open after coming off a three-week stretch where he missed the cut. He hopes to bounce back this week.
- The 21-year-old Danthai is a one-time winner on the Asian Tour. He enjoyed a solid amateur career where he won two gold medals at the 2012 South East Asia (SEA) Games.
- The Joburg Open is the first even sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and European Tour in South Africa.
“I like the cold weather here even though it is raining. This weather keeps me very calm. If I hit a bad shot in hot weather, I get angry faster.” – Phachara Khongwatmai
Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha)
I think it is great that the Asian Tour is sanctioning the Joburg Open. It gives us more opportunities to play in different countries. This will be a very difficult week because there are 240 players playing over two courses. My game now is very good and I think I can play well.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to qualify for The Open the last two times. I just played my own game and I had good luck. Hopefully I have good luck again this week and can play for the third time at The Open.
I’m very happy to come to South Africa. It is my first time here. I like the cold weather here even though it is raining. This weather keeps me very calm. If I hit a bad shot in hot weather, I get angry faster (laughs).
I’ve visited so many countries this year so I’m very happy. I’ve been playing a lot on the European Tour and Asian Tour. The experience of playing internationally will certainly help in my career.
Liu Yan-wei (Chn)
I’m very happy to get the invite to play at the Joburg Open. I’m obviously looking forward to a good week. The goal in the next two weeks is to play solid and I should be okay to keep my card on the Asian Tour.
Before last week, I was very far away from keeping my Tour card but last week helped a lot (finished third in China). That took a bit of pressure off but there’s still a lot for me to do. It is great that we will have a chance to qualify for The Open this week but my first goal is to try and keep my Asian Tour card. Obviously if I do really well here, I can accomplish two goals.
Danthai Boonma (Tha)
I’m very excited to be here because this is the first time I’m here. I will try my best to do well here because I missed the cut in my last three events and that has been very disappointing. I feel that my game is good but I’m low on confidence.
I need to try and have fun again. I shouldn’t think too far ahead. Overall, I’m quite happy with the season. I’ve played quite well except my last three events. Hopefully I can have a good result this week.
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 Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), 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), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
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