Joburg, South Africa, December 6: Gavin Green of Malaysia is aiming to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title by putting on a strong show at the Joburg Open which starts on Thursday.
The talented 23-year-old can end a year-long battle to become Asia’s number one golfer when he contends in the first tri-sanctioned tournament by the Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour, and European Tour in South Africa. The Joburg Open is also the penultimate event on the 2017 Asian Tour Schedule.
Green has one hand on the Order of Merit crown but will need a solid result this week against the 240-man field which will be played over two courses (Firethorn and Bushwillow) at Randpark Golf Club.
His closest Order of Merit challengers David Lipsky of the United States, S.S.P. Chawrasia of India and Australians Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby are not playing this week and it gives the young Malaysian the chance to seal the deal.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, ranked sixth on the Order of Merit, has a mathematical chance of challenging for the Order of Merit title but will need to win this week’s R16.5 million (approximately US$1.2 million) event.
Shubhankar Sharma is also on a mission at the Joburg Open. The highly-rated Indian is searching for a first Asian Tour victory and hopes to make it a successful first appearance in South Africa.
Major champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa was forced to pull-out from the Joburg Open after his fingers were caught in an airport trolley. He had extra rest when the pro-am was cancelled on Tuesday due to rain but made the decision not to play today when he could not grip a club.
Darren Fichardt of South Africa will defend his title this week against a strong field which includes countryman Dylan Frittelli, who won in Mauritius last week, Haydn Porteus, George Coetzee and Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand.
Did you know?
- Green has a good chance to seal the Order of Merit title race where he leads with earnings of US$572,536. He needs to make at least US$3,211 to become the first Malaysian to win the prestigious title unless Phachara Khongwatmai wins this week.
- If Phachara wins the Joburg Open and Green misses the cut, the race will continue at the season-finale at the Indonesian Masters next week. David Lipsky, S.S.P. Chawrasia, Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby, all contenders to the Order of Merit title are not playing this week.
- Green has enjoyed a solid 2017 season so far where he has won once at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters followed by three other runner-up results.
- This will be his debut appearance in South Africa and the big-hitting Malaysian hopes to make the most out of it after missing the cut in Mauritius last week.
- Green is one of the most talented players to emerge from Malaysia. Before turning professional, he was ranked 12th on the world amateur rankings.
- Sharma got off to a hot start in the 2017 season where he finished tied 11th in Singapore, tied ninth in Myanmar, tied fourth in Bangladesh and tied ninth in Malaysia.
- He struggled in the middle of the year but has made the cut in his last five Asian Tour events. His best finish in those events was tied 10th at the UBS Hong Kong Open two weeks ago.
- 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 goal is to gain every single penny we can…” – Gavin Green.
Gavin Green (Mas)
It is fun because you meet new people from different Tours. The course is different from Asian courses and there are a bit more wildlife. We will gain experience here no matter how we play. I think it is important to play on different courses and countries. I’m very excited.
The local players have played on this course before so they have an advantage but hopefully we can figure out the course on the first two days and push on during the weekend. You need to have good course management when playing on two courses and not short sight yourself. The Firethorn course is tough but everybody will be playing on the same course.
There’s a lot on the line this week with three spots up for grabs to play in The Open in 2018. It wasn’t fun missing the cut last week but it is time to move on.
The plan this week is to obviously finish as high as I can. The goal is to gain every single penny we can and move on from there. My game is okay. It is pretty average but I’ve tweaked some parts of my game after Mauritius so hopefully it peaks this week.
Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa)
The body feels great, but I had a different incident this week with jamming my fingers in trolleys at the airport. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to play this week. You know, I’m here and I was ready to do everything this week. I was actually relieved there wasn’t a pro-am this week because I thought the rest would help. But this morning is even worse than it was yesterday so I tried to grip a golf club but there’s no way I can go to my grip position. It’s a sad thing but you know I have had my struggles with a couple of things.
My body actually feels great but when something like this happens the Monday when I travel, it’s a bit unfortunate one, but I don’t want to tee off Thursday and play one hole or few shots and then withdraw after taking someone’s spot. You know, I just can’t do that. So, I’m going to have to withdraw from this one.
I’m probably going to go do an X-ray today. I hope I didn’t crack the middle finger there somehow, but it’s swollen quite a bit and it’s right on that pressure point where you hold your grip. I tried this morning just trying gripping it and taking a little bit of a swing but I couldn’t even get to my hips so it’s not going to work. I’ll have someone check it out back home and hopefully it’s nothing much.
Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
It is fantastic to be here. This is my first time in South Africa and the course is in fantastic shape. I think it is great that the Asian Tour is here and that we have spots in the Joburg Open.
The season has been pretty good. The first four events have to be the highlight of my season. I didn’t play well in the middle of the year. Those months weren’t very good but I’ve learnt so much this year by playing on different courses and grass. All in all, I’m a better player now as compared to earlier this year.
You always set goals at the start of the season. You might accomplish some and lose some but if you can tick all the boxes then it is a dream season. I think a win will make this a really good season. I have two more tournaments left and if I can win, then it will be icing on the cake.
The course is fantastic. It rewards good play especially if you hit it good off the tees. It is a 240-man field but at the end, you are just playing against yourself and the golf course. It is a huge incentive to have a chance to qualify for The Open. That’s even more reason for me to do well here.
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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