Kaufman Blog: What a memorable 2015 season

Tue 22 Dec 2015

Kaufman Blog: What a memorable 2015 season

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By Richard Kaufman, Asian Tour TV Commentator
It’s been another extremely enjoyable season on the Asian Tour and here’s my take…
Player of the Year
Not as straightforward as it seems. There were many wonderful performances and some incredible consistency. The nominees:- Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thongchai Jaidee and Anirban Lahiri.
All three will start the New Year in the top-50 in the world after cleaning up on the Asian Tour and European Tour in 2015.
Kiradech is indeed a joy to watch. It’s always a birdie fest when Kiradech’s on the golf course and I just love his attacking style. Wins in China and Scotland and a few near misses elsewhere.
Dom Boulet said a few years ago he can be a top 20 in the world player and he’s already close to that mark after a superb 12 months.
Thongchai’s style is completely different but after thinking he surely couldn’t surpass a brilliant 2014, he has. A great victory in Germany and a President’s Cup rookie. His consistency, over the last 24 months in particular, has been incredible.
But one player in 2015 deserves the accolade as Asian Tour Player of the Year more than any other - Anirban Lahiri.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand
First off all, his two wins at the start of the year at the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open were stunning and he did what the best players in the world always seem capable of doing which is to come up with magic moments at just the right time.
A year ago, I predicted he would win the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and after those wins, there was no catching Anirban at the top. But what separated Anirban from Kiradech and Thongchai in the year’s achievements was what he did next.
He challenged at the Majors. First at St Andrews at the Open Championship where he got to within one of the lead on Sunday, albeit given the windy conditions that was only round  three.
Then a top five at the PGA Championship consolidated the Indian as a player who can hold his own against the best. And then to top it all, he won his PGA Tour card at the Web.com Finals, followed by a debut at the Presidents Cup.
I haven’t spoken to Anirban since but it seemed to me his end of season form was affected by tiredness or burn out. As much as we all want to see him tee it up on the Asian Tour as much as possible, I hope he focuses on establishing himself as a PGA Tour player in 2016.
221115_RWMM_Hung Chien-yao (TPE) 08Shot of Year
Given what I have already said, Anirban’s chip in at 17 at the Indian Open was timely as well as brilliant.
But one shot stands out. When a company offers up a hole in one prize worth US$250,000, for obvious reasons they don’t usually put it up on a hole that produces a great chance of making an ace.
So the final day of the Resorts World Manila Masters and the 14th hole … 241 yards where many players were hitting hybrid. Every player had seen their chance of winning an aviation package around the Philippines disappear apart from one.
The last player in the final group on Sunday, Hung Chien-yao hit the sweetest of 2 irons that found its way to the bottom of the hole. Not enough to win him the tournament but good enough for Shot of the Year.
Commentary of the Year
Andrew Coltart melting in the heat of Bangkok as on course commentator and accidentally referring to Clement Sordet as “lemon sorbet”. Not as good as Dom’s “Burnt Cheese Burger” for Bernd Wiesberger in 2014 though.
Sergio Garcia of Spain Sergio Garcia of Spain
Tournament of the Year
Of course, I have not been to every Asian Tour event. But a new event arrived on the Asian tour in 2015 and made some noise. The Ho Tram Open in Vietnam arrived on the 2015 schedule and impressed. The setting was stunning. Overlooking the South China Sea on the south east coast of Vietnam on a links style course designed by Greg Norman, it looked great on TV.
With the wind blowing hard it proved an excellent test too. And what a finish it produced with a dramatic back nine that could easily have seen any number of different outcomes.
But it wasn’t just on the course that the Ho Tram Open impressed. From the James Bond theme that saw the players dressed to the nines to the evening entertainment of boxing and singing, this was an “event”.
Who to watch out for in 2016
The Thais are coming! Natipong Srithong, Danthai Boonma and Phachara Kongwatmai. What an end to the year from these three. Wonderful achievements from fledgling pros and what an exciting career lay ahead for them. Throw in the potential of Jazz Janewattannond and others on the way and Thai golf has a bright future.
Danthai Boonma of Thailand Danthai Boonma of Thailand
Predictions for 2016
Another closely fought EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia between Asia and Europe. Too hard to call, I’m sitting on the fence.
After predicting an Indian winner to claim the rankings last year, I have a feeling there may be another, as I expect the Gaganjeet Bhullar resurgence to continue. A win for Anirban or Kiradech on the PGA Tour?
We’ll just have wait and see. And I can’t wait.
Season’s greetings and a Happy New Year to you all !