Kobayashi prepares for tough title defence

Wed 25 Sep 2013

Kobayashi prepares for tough title defence

  • SHARE
Osaka, September 25: Masanori Kobayashi of Japan is bracing himself for a tough title defence at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open, which is starting on Thursday, as he continues the search for a suitable putter.
Kobayashi, the 2012 Asian Tour Rookie of the Year, has changed five putters this season and he hopes that a sixth putter change will turn his fortunes around at the ¥150 million (approximately US$1.48 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
He will be joined by an in-form Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who won his 16th Asian Tour title a fortnight ago, Wade Ormsby of Australia, winner of the Panasonic Open India in April and Panasonic ambassador Anirban Lahiri of India at the Ibaraki Country Club.
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Asia’s first male Major winner Y.E. Yang of Korea, Angelo Que of the Philippines, Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Scott Barr of Australia and Japanese star Yuta Ikeda will also be in the elite field.
Kobayashi enjoyed a solid season on the Asian Tour last year when he won the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open courtesy of a final round 62. He carded two other top-10s to finish sixth on the 2012 Asian Tour Order of Merit.
He has yet to hit top form this season, where he missed six cuts in his last seven events, and admits that his poor putting spell has taken away the excitement of defending his Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open title.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand
“It feels like I’m changing my putters every week! At the start of the year, I wanted to win on the Asian Tour and in Japan but with my current form, I just hope to make the cut,” said the 37-year-old Kobayashi.
“To be honest, I don’t feel excited about my title defence because I’m not playing my best golf. I enjoyed a good season on the Asian Tour last year but it has been disappointing so far. Even my irons have let me down and I can’t recover from bad shots,” he lamented.
Kiradech, ranked 86th on the Official World Golf Ranking, believes his game is in great shape as he aims for a third Asian Tour title and his first triumph in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’
“I’m very proud and happy with the way that I’m playing. I’ve been looking forward to returning and competing in Asia again. With the way I’m swinging I think I have a good chance to win but I must not force or put too much pressure on myself,” said Kiradech.
A victory this week will also put the 24-year-old within striking distance of breaking into the world’s top-50 by the end of the season.
“I have a lot of confidence heading into this week. I’m very happy with my results so far but my goal is to be ranked inside the top-50 on the Official World Golf Rankings by the end of the year,” said Kiradech.
India’s rising star Lahiri, a three-time Asian Tour winner, will not have any injury doubts even though he has yet to fully recover from a knee injury. It will be a big week for Lahiri as a victory will put him in firm position to qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Lahiri, currently ranked seventh on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, will need to secure at least a third or second ranking on the Merit list by October 14 to qualify for the showpiece.
“I’m still recovering from my knee injury. I’m not a 100% healed but my knee has improved. We had a week’s break so I did a lot of treatment on my knee and worked on my swing. There are no injury worries while I’m playing. I just have to be more careful and not put too much pressure or strain on it,” said Lahiri.
Australia’s Barr was delighted to return to the Ibaraki Country Club, the first venue of the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open when it was inaugurated as a co-sanction event between the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour in 2008.
Scott Barr of Austraiia Scott Barr of Austraiia
“My memory of the course is quite vague since I last played here but I think this is definitely one of the better tracks that we play on the Asian Tour. I’m not overly happy with how I played early in the season. I want to get into the mix more often so I can get into contention on Sunday,” said Barr, who is still searching for a first Asian Tour title.
The prestigious event is hosted by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, Panasonic Corporation and Japan Golf Association.
Ends.
About the Asian Tour
In 2013, the Asian Tour will celebrate a momentous milestone with its 10th season. 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 Abacus (Official Apparel Partner), Canon (Official Imaging Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Saxo Capital Markets (Official Statistics Partner), Singha Beer (Official Beer), Srixon (Official Ball), Subway (Official Quick Service Restaurant), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Official Hotels and Resorts) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Also, visit us at www.asiantour.com, www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf, www.twitter.com/asiantourgolf, www.youtube.com/theasiantour and www.weibo.com/asiantourgolf.