Rayong, Thailand, January 13: Steven Jeffress of Australia is a step closer to securing an elusive Asian Tour card for the new season after signing for a second straight two-under-par 69 at the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand on Saturday.
Jeffress, a two-time winner on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, has enjoyed a superb run so far in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School, where a 243-man field from over 30 countries will vie to finish inside top-35 and ties in an intense 90-hole battle this week.
Starting the round with a three-shot deficit, the 42-year-old Jeffress sank five birdies against a bogey and a double-bogey at the St. Andrews 2000 to grab a share of the lead on 10-under-par 274 total.
He leads by one shot alongside overnight leader Sorachut Hansapiban (72) of Thailand, compatriot Maverick Antcliff (68) and Seungtaek Lee (67) of Korea.
Japan’s Shohei Hasegawa, who carded a 69, took fifth place on his own while Australian Travis Smyth, Ben Campbell of New Zealand and Minkyu Kim of Korea shared sixth place on 276 following rounds of 66, 68 and 67 respectively.
The first four rounds of the 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage was held across two courses in Rayong – the Rayong Green Valley Country Club and the St. Andrews 2000.
The 72-hole cut was set at two-over-par 286 with a total of 78 players progressing into the fifth and final round, which will be held only at the Rayong Green Valley Country Club on Sunday. The top 35 players and ties, at the conclusion of 90 holes, will be ranked accordingly for the 2018 season.
A total of 153 players, including one amateur, had earlier progressed into the third and fourth rounds after surviving the 36-hole cut-off mark which was set at four-over-par 146.
Did you know?
- The 42-year-old Steven Jeffress is a former winner of the Fiji International in 2014. He hails from Taree, New South Wales in Australia and turned professional in 1999. Also won the Victorian PGA Championship in 2006.
- Jeffress enjoyed a commendable sixth-place finish at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth last season.
- Jeffress has previously played on the Japan Golf Tour in 2009 and 2014.
- Maverick Antcliff is playing in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School. He qualified for his first Asian Tour event at the Asian Golf Championship in China through the China Tour last year. He finished a commendable tied-fourth in that event.
- Antcliff is 24 years old and he turned professional in 2016. Started playing golf at the age of 12.
- Sorachut Hansapiban is hoping to be third-time lucky, after missing the grade at the Qualifying School in his last two attempts in 2016 and 2017.
The 27-year-old Sorachut has been plying his trade on the ADT since 2016 and has come close to winning on several occasions.
- Like Antcliff, Seungtaek Lee is also playing in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School.
- The 22-year-old Lee, who returned with a bogey-free round highlighted by four birdies, enjoyed a tied-13th place finish at the Shinhan Donghae Open on home soil last year.
- Lee turned professional three years ago and has been plying his trade on his domestic circuit since.
- A total of 78 players from across 17 countries made the 72-hole cut. The countries that will be represented in the final round are Australia (16), Korea (15), Thailand (13), United States (8), Japan (6), India (6), New Zealande (3), England (2), Argentina (1), Finland (1), Sweden (1), Canada (1), South Africa (1), Italy (1), Chile (1), Sri Lanka (1) and Spain (1).
- Amongst the 78 players who progressed into the final round, five are past champions on the Asian Tour. They are Thammanoon Sriroj (T12) and Udorn Duangdecha (T68) of Thailand, Himmat Rai (T18) of India, Australian David Gleeson (T50) and Berry Henson (T56) of the United States.
Steven Jeffress (Aus) – Fourth round 69 (-2) St. Andrews 2000, Total 274 (-10)
My goal was to get into top 35 and ties at the start of the week. I would have taken it at the start of the week if you told me I will be taking a share of lead into the final round. The goal now is to win!
I am not yet affected by fatigue at this point although I should be, because I am old, compared to the other guys out here. I have been up at 4.30am for the last four mornings now and I had a massive day yesterday. I got to the course at 5.20am and left at 7.10pm last night.
I still feel pretty good, body-wise and mind-wise. When you keep fresh in the mind, your body feels better as well. Golf is a funny game. Sometimes my experience helps but with the young guys now, it’s a different game.
I have played in a lot of Qualifying Schools before but this is my first time playing on the Asian Tour. I think I have played in Japan five or six times and three or four times in Europe. Q-school is difficult because you only got that one week to set yourself up for the entire year.
I have got a full card in Australia and I have got something to play at least. I come to this week with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude but for some of the other guys out here, it can be pretty nerve-wrecking trying to finish inside top 35 and ties. This is part of what we do I guess.
I probably don’t do as much practice off the course ahead of the Qualifying School. Five days is a long time and it gets pretty hot out there. The course is hilly to walk too so it’s important to conserve your energy if you can. That’s my plan.
I like the Rayong Green Valley course better. There are like five or six holes at the St. Andrews 2000 which scare me. It just doesn’t suit my eye when I stand up there. But having said that, I had my best round of the week so far over there. You just can’t make mistakes off the tee.
Sorachut Hansapiban (Tha) – Fourth round 72 (+1) St. Andrews 2000, Total 274 (-10)
The course is playing really difficult today. It was so windy out there. I was struggling out there but I managed to grind it out for a 72. I am still in a good position right now so we will see how it goes tomorrow.
I will continue to do the same things for tomorrow. It’s the final lap so I will do my best again. This is my third time playing in the Qualifying School. I am pleased with how I have played so far. I have grown a lot as a player since I first played the Qualifying School in 2016.
Playing on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) for the last two years has helped because it has given me a lot of experiences and exposure in my career.
Seungtaek Lee (Kor) – Fourth round 67 (-4) St. Andrews 2000, Total 274 (-10)
I had a great round today. My short game was really good and I hit my irons very well too. I am happy with how I played given the tough conditions today. It was really windy out there and I think it’s the windiest day that we have played so far this week.
I putted well and I managed to stay relaxed out there. I guess that was the key for me. I made a long putt from about four metres for birdie on the 11th hole. That was the highlight for me today.
I was feeling pretty nervous at the start of the week because I know there were many good players out here. I managed to hang it there and grind it out to move to the top of the leaderboard so I am really pleased.
Maverick Antcliff (Aus) – Fourth round 68 (-3) St. Andrews 2000, Total 274 (-10)
It was pretty similar to yesterday with the wind and stuff. It was alright because a lot of holes were like cross winds so it didn’t make the holes super short or super long. I played fairly solid. I made a few nice up and downs when I hit some bad shots out there.
It’s like you just have to try and get through hole 17 and 18 and then the first three holes and you can kind of get a bit of runaway sixth and seventh. The eighth hole is quite short. I was just trying to stay in the present and concentrate on each shot out there.
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