Baek Back in the Driver's Seat

Tue 31 Jan 2012

Baek Back in the Driver's Seat

Yangon, January 31: Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun hopes his renewed faith in his driver will guide him to a maiden Asian Tour victory at the Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan starting Thursday.

Baek will be among the highly rated young guns at the Royal Mingalardon Golf & Country Club this week which include Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat, Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines.

Defending champion Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and veterans Boonchu Ruangkit, a former Myanmar Open champion, and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines will also feature in the US$300,000 event, which is the curtain raiser for the 2012 Asian Tour season.

Baek said he shivered every time he used a driver last year where his best finish was a tied 16th place at the Macau Open.

“My driver was terrible last year. I didn’t use a single driver for nine tournaments. I just used three wood to tee off. I couldn’t hit using a driver. Every time I picked up the driver I shivered. My drives were going from left to right and it gradually got worst until I couldn’t hit a single drive,” said the 21-year-old.

But after two months of intense training, Baek is ready to challenge for honours at the Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan, returning on the Asian Tour schedule after a one year lapse.

“I practised my driver for the last two months and now I’m feeling better. Luckily I was able to keep my card. I’m going to try harder and try and finish inside the top-20 of the Order of Merit. That’s one of my goals this year and I can achieve that if I win a tournament. I believe if I can continue to improve I’ll be able to win,” said Baek, whose best finish on the Asian Tour was second at the 2010 Indian Open.

A well-rested Rick Kulacz of Australia, a two-time Asian Tour champion, is eager to kick-start his season and ending a two-year title drought.

“I spent six weeks back in Perth and three weeks completely off golf when I went to the beach with some friends. I’m ready to go this year. Last year was terrible. I played terrible all year. I only had one good finish in Singapore and that helped me keep my card for this year,” said Kulacz, who finished in 46th place on the Order of Merit last year.

“I want to become a better player and enjoy the game. I want to get settled again and play well. I feel I’m getting close to a third victory. I would be very disappointed if I didn’t get a win this year and that’s what I’ll be aiming for every week when I tee it up,” he added.

The 19-year-old Panuphol, nicknamed Coconut by his family and peers, hopes to sparkle in Myanmar after recovering from a back injury he suffered after the season-ending Thailand Golf Championship.


“I rested for three weeks and was back to practice only two weeks ago. Nothing too serious. My hips kind of moved and I twisted it a bit. I was playing too many tournaments but didn’t really take care of my body. I’m okay now but not 100%. I’m probably at 75% now,” said Panuphol, who turned professional at the age of 14 because of his love for the game.

He will put a new golf set to use this week in hopes that it will improve his game. “I got new clubs with TaylorMade so we’ll see how that works out. I don’t really have big goals. I just try to win in every tournament and take one shot at a time.”

Playing at the Royal Mingalardon Golf & Country Club will evoke fond memories for Bhullar, who won his second Asian Tour title in 2010 on a similar course.

“This golf course reminds me of the golf course when I won two years ago in Thailand. My mindset is also pretty much the same so you never know what’s going to happen. You just need to stay positive,” said the 23-year-old.

“My season started in India last week and my body is slowly warming up. The golf course here is really nice and most of the golfers are excited to play here. The golf course is on an easier side and the results will be low this week,” he added.

A total of 144 players from over 25 countries will play at the Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan this week.


About the Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan

The Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Air Bagan is a US$300,000 full field Asian Tour event which will be staged at the highly-rated Royal Mingalardon Golf & Country Club from February 2-5, 2012 and is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Myanmar Professional Golf Association. Myanmar’s national championship will return to the Asian Tour Schedule after a year’s lapse. It was inaugurated in 1996 and the list of champions includes illustrious names such as three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, countryman Boonchu Ruangkit, American Anthony Kang, South African James Kingston, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Keng-chi and Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka who won the event in 2010.

Sponsors include Zaykabar as the title sponsor, Air Bagan as the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include 100Plus, Srixon, Canon, A1, AMC, Alpine, Srixon, Tiger Beer, Sumitomo and CEO.

About the 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), J.Lindeberg (Official Apparel Partner), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Official Hotels and Resorts), Cityneon (Official Event Overlay Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Singha Beer (Official Beer), BlackBerry (Official Smartphone and Tablet) and Srixon (Official Ball). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.