OWGR Watch: The road to Augusta

Wed 13 Mar 2019

OWGR Watch: The road to Augusta

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By Olle Nordberg, Former Asian Tour and European Tour professional

March 13: With lucrative events such as World Golf Championships (WGC), Majors and the Players Championship looming, the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) becomes all important. Here, we follow the Asian Tour players that are making a charge up the rankings and their quest to play their way into these events via the OWGR.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, currently ranked number 39 on the OWGR, will already be eligible for all the above events.

Kiradech and India’s Anirban Lahiri both have a huge week coming up at this week’s US$12,500,000 Players Championship in Jacksonville, Florida. It has arguably the strongest field in golf and regarded by many as the “fifth major”. Kiradech and Lahiri have a much-coveted opportunity to challenge for the 80 OWGR points and perks that go to the winner of the Players Championship.

The fringe benefits of winning this event are staggering in the world of professional golf:

  • Five-year PGA TOUR exemption
  • Three-year Masters exemption
  • Three-year U.S. Open exemption
  • Three-year Open Championship exemption
  • Three-year U.S. PGA Championship exemption

Plus, a large share of one of the biggest purses in golf.

Last week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters saw a number of Asian Tour members competing on the weekend, and a big make move up the ranking list was, of course, made by the champion, two-time Asian Tour winner, Justin Harding.

Harding won his maiden European Tour event by finishing in style with birdies on his last two holes for a closing 6-under-par 66, continuing his incredible Sunday scoring run in 2019. Since the start of the year, his round four scores have been: 70 (-1) at the SMBC Singapore Open, 63 (-9) Omega Dubai Desert Classic, 63 (-7) Saudi International, 68 (-4) Vic Open and 66 (-6) last week in Qatar. An enviable average of 66 or -5.4 under par.

For winning the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, Harding collected 24 OWGR points and rose 22 positions in the rankings all the way up to 52nd place. This means he has now secured a place in the WGC Dell Matchplay in Austin, Texas at the end of march for the top 64 available on the OWGR, even if the deadline is not until March 18.

He is also very close to the magic number 50 needed for an invitation to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia that is happening from April 11 to 14. The deadline to get into the top-50 is March 31, and one more top finish before then could see Harding book his first Masters Tournament appearance.

Harding is scheduled to play in the Magical Kenya Open in Nairobi this week on the European Tour.

With a tied-20th place in Qatar, Kurt Kitayama remains at number 105 in the OWGR rankings and is still within striking distance of the top-100 needed for a special exemption into the U.S. PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York that is happening from May 16 to 19.

Kitayama is not playing this week and will return to action in next week’s Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond did not play last week and dropped a couple of spots on the OWGR to 77 from 75, but he is still well positioned for a special invitation to the U.S. PGA Championship.

With two big co-sanctioned events coming up on the schedule, the Maybank Championship and Hero Indian Open, the Masters Tournament is also within reach, although a tall order. A win in Malaysia and a high finish in India the week after could see Jazz follow in Shubhankar Sharma’s footsteps from last year.