Schwartzel seeks successful defence

Wed 11 Dec 2013

Schwartzel seeks successful defence

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Chonburi, Thailand, December 11: South African star Charl Schwartzel returns to one of his happy hunting grounds eager to successfully defend his Thailand Golf Championship title against a standout field which includes two of the world’s top-five players.Schwartzel romped to an impressive 11-shot victory in the US$1 million full-field Asian Tour event at the Amata Spring Country Club last season, improving on his runner-up outing in the inaugural event in 2011.
With his confidence sky-high following a win and two other top-10s in his last three starts, the 29-year-old is ready to quell the expected challenges from world number three Henrik Stenson, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, who is fourth in the world, 2012 Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Japanese ace Ryo Ishikawa.
Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia and Hunter Mahan and no fewer than 48 Tour champions from the Asian Tour including current number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be looking to dethrone Schwartzel.
Hunter Mahan of the USA Hunter Mahan of the USA
“I love coming back to Bangkok.  It's a great place, and it's even better when you play well on the golf course that you come back to. I have great memories, and it's also nice that I've had a nice run of form the last sort of month,” said Schwartzel.
“You definitely need to have your ‘A’ game when you play this course. It feels like if you bring a game here that you trust and that you can rely on, you can actually score well.  But if you don't bring that game, you're going to struggle around here.
“When it's a tough golf course like this, for me, it makes me concentrate harder and when I'm playing well, I'll keep hitting good shots. I think I've always liked courses that play difficult.”
The 2011 Masters Tournament champion fired three brilliant rounds of 65s and a 68 at Amata Spring last year to run away with the prestigious trophy. He dropped only one bogey all week.
“You don't really get those weeks very often where you don't make mistakes. Last year, I hit the ball exceptionally well. That was some of the best ball striking in a sort of few weeks that I had around that time.  It was some of the best that I've had in my career,” he said.
Watson, ranked 26th in the world, has already won one title this week, a Thai cooking contest held on Tuesday afternoon alongside Mahan, Thongchai and Schwartzel. “It gives me confidence that I've already won an event here this week,” laughed the left-handed Watson.
“Last year, I won the tournament and then Schwartzel killed us. It was like two tournaments, Charl Schwartzel's event and everybody else's event. This year, I want to have the same chance, to have a chance to win coming down the stretch,” added the 35-year-old.
Ryo Ishikawa of Japan Ryo Ishikawa of Japan
Following a third place finish last week in the U.S., Watson is desperate to ensure he signs off the year with a win. “I could always be better. I didn't win this year, so my first time in three years I haven't won. I'd like to somehow have a chance to finish it off in the last tournament of the year with a win,” said Watson, who has not returned into the winner’s circle following his 2012 Masters Tournament victory.
With a pairing with Stenson and Kiradech in the opening two rounds, Watson hopes to get his campaign off on a strong note. He has also noticed Kiradech’s recent rise to the top of the Asian Tour merit list. “I know he's good. You see his name, I don't know how to pronounce his name, but you see his name a lot. You know that he's a good talent,” he said.
Mahan, ranked 31st in the world and winner of two World Golf Championships events, will be out to improve on his 22nd finish at last year’s Thailand Golf Championship. After a two-month break, the American, like Watson, is keen to secure a victory to end his year on a high.
“I’m excited about this week. It’s a great field, it's a great tournament. The game is kind of rounding into shape right now. I feel good about what I'm doing and I like this golf course. I'd like to get a ‘W’ (win), but other than that, it's been a good year,” said Mahan.
Ishikawa, holder of 10 victories in Japan, has been on a resurgence following five recent top-10s including a tied fifth finish at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf in Melbourne last month. The 22-year-old, who finished tied 11th at the Thailand Golf Championship in 2012, said he has become mentally stronger after a year of struggles.
“I think all mental, the mental (aspect) is very important for golf.  I was confused and struggling with my golf game like the last 10 months. But these past few months, I'm pretty comfortable with my game and getting more confidence,” said Ishikawa.
About the Thailand Golf Championship
The primary organizers of the event are Gulf Sports Management, the Asian Tour and IMG. They have been well supported by both
Bubba Watson of the USA Bubba Watson of the USA
government and private organizations such as Siam Commercial Bank, Gulf JP, Toyota, Tourism Authority of Thailand, PTT Public Company Ltd, PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited, PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited, Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Thaioil, IRPC, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Omega, Nooter / Eriksen, Samithivej Hospital, Starwood, CNN, SuperSports, Heineken, Ricoh, Graham Beck Wines, EST Cola, Panasonic, Srixon, Central Pattana, Bangkok Post and Amata Spring Country Club.
Thailand Golf Championship tickets are available at Thaiticketmajor at Baht 300 each for Round 1 and 2 (December 12 and 13). The price for Round 3 (December 14) is Baht 400, and for the final day on December 15 the price is Baht 500. A 4-day package ticket is only Baht 800. Children below the age of 16 and senior citizens 60-years-old and over can enjoy Thailand Golf Championship for free. Special offers for SCB Credit Card, PTT Blue Card, SPG Member Card and Samitivej Patient and Staff Card holders are available till December 11, 2013. Please call 02-262-3456 or visit www.thaiticketmajor.com for details.
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), 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