Prayad Marksaeng shines in Senior PGA

This year’s SMBC Singapore Open champion Prayad Marksaeng, undeterred by playing alongside many of the game’s greatest ever players, recorded an impressive joint 11th place in the Senior PGA Championship in the United States at the weekend.

The 51-year-old fired rounds of 70, 69, 70 and 73 to finish six-under-par and earn a cheque for US$62,210. It was his first start of the season on the Champions Tour.

Germany’s Bernhard Langer won the event finishing 18 under par, while Vijay Singh from Fiji was second and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez was tied third.

Thailand’s Prayad claimed Singapore’s national Open for the first time in January for his 10th victory on the Asian Tour, and his sixth success on the Japan Tour as the event is jointly sanctioned with the Japanese.

Garcia claims first Major and Green jacket

Congratulations to Sergio Garcia from Spain for ending his long wait for a first Major title with a memorable play-off victory over England’s Justin Rose at the Masters.

Sergio competed in the SMBC Singapore Open in January and tied for 11th – finishing four places behind winner Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng – to kick start what is turning out to be one of the finest seasons of his career.

Sergio and Justin finished on nine under par after 72 holes at Augusta, setting up a sudden-death play-off on the 18th.

The Spaniard, 37, holed a birdie putt for victory after his European Ryder Cup team-mate could only manage a bogey.

Sergio finally won one of golf’s four Majors at his 74th attempt after 22 previous top-10 finishes.

He became the third Spaniard to win the Masters – after Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal – on what would have been the 60th birthday of Seve, who died in 2011.

“To join Seve and Jose – my two idols – is amazing,” said Garcia.

Early birthday present for veteran Prayad with SMBC Singapore Open triumph

Sentosa, Singapore, January 22: Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng received his early birthday present when he eclipsed his younger rivals with a final round four-under-par 67 to lift his 10th Asian Tour title at the SMBC Singapore Open on Sunday.

Prayad’s closing birdie on 18 proved decisive as it gave him a one-shot advantage and also the clubhouse lead while the rest of the field were still out at the Sentosa Golf Club trying to pip him to the title.

Prayad, who turns 51 on January 30, was eventually crowned the newest SMBC Singapore Open champion after a two-hour wait as no one in the chasing pack was able to surmount their challenge and better his four-day total of nine-under-par 275.

Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, South Africa’s Jbe Kruger, Philippines Juvic Pagunsan and defending champion Younghan Song of Korea all had their chances to pip or at least force a play-off with Prayad but that crucial putt in their closing holes simply eluded all of them.

The quartet all finished one shot back of Prayad and shared second place with their 276 total. World number seven Adam Scott had a round to forget as he signed off with a 74 to finish tied for ninth while Singapore’s Quincy Quek emerged as the best placed Singaporean in tied-26th place.

Scott takes pole position at SMBC Singapore Open

Three-time winner Adam Scott of Australia assumed his familiar position atop the leaderboard at the SMBC Singapore Open after birdieing the 18th on Sunday morning for a third round 69.

The world number seven has a three-day total of nine-under-par of 204, a shot clear of Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit and Phachara Khongwatmai, who completed their third rounds before darkness fell on Saturday, Angelo Que of the Philippines and halfway leader Seungsu Han.

Que, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, shot a superb eagle at the last for a 69 while Korean born American Han birdied the 18th for a one over 72.

The Japan duo of Hideto Tanihara and Satoshi Kodaira and Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines finished off their third rounds on Sunday with matching 69s for a share of sixth place, two shots behind Scott.

Pagunsan has a bit of a score to settle in the tournament having lost a playoff to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at the 2011 Singapore Open.

Scott, who says Sentosa Golf Club is like his second home, restarted on the 14th on Sunday morning and played his remaining holes in par before the birdie at the par-five 18th.

With players remaining in their same groups for the fourth round, it was a quick turnaround for Scott as he was back on the first tee at 9.40am.

Phachara and Tirawat topped the leaderboard on eight-under-par 205 overnight after finishing in drizzly conditions at The Serapong Course on Saturday,

Tirawat is enjoying a whirlwind week. He earned his Asian Tour card at Qualifying School last Saturday and was the last player into the field for the showpiece SMBC Singapore Open after Scotland’s Simon Yates withdrew.

“I didn’t expect much because I only got in to the tournament on Thursday,” said the 27 year old, who birdied the last for a 66. “I was really lucky. I will continue to stick to my game plan (in the fourth round) and not think too much.”

Teenager Phachara joined his countryman as clubhouse leader on Saturday with a 67, thanks to a final hole birdie.

The 17 year old is already something of a seasoned player having won his first professional event as a 14 year old schoolboy and becoming the youngest player to win on the Asian Development Tour in May 2015 at the age of 15.

“I don’t want to think too far ahead because anything can happen on this golf course. I just want to stay in the present and stick to my game plan,” said Phachara, who is on course to earn his second straight visit to The Open Championship. “If I get distracted, I’ll feel very nervous and things will not go my way.”

Four players (not already exempt) who finish in the top 12 and ties at the SMBC Singapore Open will win a spot in The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale in July.

The 51st edition of the SMBC Singapore Open is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

Thai duo lead at weather-hit SMBC Singapore Open

Sentosa, Singapore, January 21: Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit and Phachara Khongwatmai braved the heavy rains by snatching the third round clubhouse lead at the weather-hit SMBC Singapore Open on Saturday.

Close to three and a half-hour of play was lost due to lightning activities and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

When play finally got underway again at 5.30pm, it was the 27-year-old Tirawat, who stormed to the top by returning to fire two birdies in his remaining three holes for a five-under-par 66.

Phachara also had a closing birdie to thank for lifting him to the top of the leaderboard after he posted a 67 for a three-day total of eight-under-par 205 at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Australia’s Adam Scott, a three-time Singapore Open winner, could meanwhile overtake the Thai duo when he resumes his third round at 7.30am on Sunday. The world number seven, together with second round leader Seungsu Han of the United States, is at eight-under-par through 13 holes.

Singapore’s Quincy Quek remained in contention to become the first Singaporean to win his National Open as he is within two shots of the leaders at the US$1 million event that is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

Quek, together with Philippines’ Juvic Pagunsan is at six-under with four holes to play and is among the 32 players who have yet to complete their third round.

New Daddy Quek shows the “nappy factor”

Sleep-deprived new dad Quincy Quek of Singapore gave some truth to the “nappy factor” in sport by fashioning two fine rounds to lie joint fourth at the halfway mark of the SMBC Singapore Open,

Quek has had little shut eye and practiced sparingly since his wife Celine gave birth to their first child, Olivia, last Saturday.

Yet Quek played assured golf over The Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club in the first two rounds and matching 68s put him well in the hunt, just two shots behind 36-hole leader Seungsu Han of the United States.

The term “nappy factor” was coined a couple of decades ago by golf betting expert Keith Elliott and took legs last year when England’s Danny Willett won the US Masters soon after his son Zachariah James was born prematurely.

Elliott, a one-time economics lecturer, grouped players into ones to watch, streak players, bottlers and the like before adding “Nappy Factor”.

He reckoned that sportsmen received a mental boost after the birth of their first child and his studies showed that new fathers were a breed apart on the greens.

Quek, who first starred in the Singapore Open in 2007 when he made the cut as an amateur, agreed that witnessing the birth of his baby girl was a nerve-wracking experience second to none.

“I sat in the delivery room and I was so nervous. It’s a kind of feeling that you can’t describe unless you really go through it. I will definitely remember it for the rest of my life,” he said.

“I haven’t really slept since she was born on Saturday. I have lost track of time since actually. But I am glad she’s healthy which is the most important.”

The 29 year old Quek has a reasonably good record in the Singapore Open since his debut in 2007 having made the cut in 2012 and last year, when he finished tied 49th.

Quek has yet to record a breakthrough win on the Asian Tour but has stuck to the mantra on his website that “champions keep playing until they get it right.”

Ahead of the third round on Saturday, he said that he hoped to remain in contention going into the final day.

“I believe my game is good enough to be in contention. It is just tightening up the loose ends and stringing four good rounds together. I’ve always been taught to stay in the present and focus on moving forward,” he commented.

Baby Olivia will be oblivious to the excitement her dad has generated amongst local golf fans, who are still waiting for the first home born winner of the Singapore Open, but Quek said that “in between feeds when baby is sleeping, my wife will be probably be watching me in action on television.”

Malaysia’s Green jumps into sole second at halfway mark

Sentosa, Singapore, January 21: Big-hitting Malaysian Gavin Green birdied his final hole on Saturday morning to move onto the shoulder of leader Seungsu Han at the halfway mark of the SMBC Singapore Open.

Green carded a three-under 68 for a total of eight-under-par 134, a stroke behind Korean-born American Han who completed his round on Friday at Sentosa Golf Club.

Three-time winner Adam Scott of Australia, who made the early running on Friday watched by huge galleries, is a further shot adrift in third spot. The world number seven carded a 67 in round two.

Angelo Que of the Philippines and new dad Quincy Quek of Singapore share fourth place after shooting 69 and 68 respectively on Friday. Quek, who is giving credence to the so-called “nappy factor” in sport, can expect big crowds to follow him in the third round.

Before darkness halted play on Friday, the 23-year-old Green had put together a steady round with three birdies and a sole bogey at the 14th. His birdie at the par-five 18th provided a good early morning tonic in his second appearance at the iconic event having missed the cut last year.

Green graduated to the Asian Tour from the feeder Asian Development Tour, winning twice and finishing second on the Order of Merit last year, and he has showcased his huge talent this week.

The unheralded Han surprised even himself by topping the leaderboard as he has played sparingly since the season finished on the Japan Tour where the 30-year-old chalked up five top-10 finishes.

“It obviously feels good. I am a bit surprised because I took some time off in December after my season last year so I wasn’t really expecting anything coming here. I just want to play and see where it gets me. It feels good to be playing well,” said Han, who had an impressive record in junior golf.

“I played the tour right after college in 2009 and I came back to play in Asia. I played in Japan, China, Canada and I was all over the place. I took a few years off and went back to play in Japan again.”

Ernie Els of South Africa, twice a runner-up at the Singapore Open, missed the cut of +1 by a single shot after adding a level-par 71 to his opening 73 on Friday.

Japan Tour number one Yuta Ikeda will also sit out the weekend. He failed to hit the heights of late 2016, when he won twice and finished runner-up six times, and carded rounds of 74-70.

The 51st edition of the SMBC Singapore Open is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

Unheralded Han upstages stars at SMBC Singapore Open

Sentosa, Singapore, January 20: Unheralded Seungsu Han of the United States upstaged the tournament marquee names by carding a second round four-under-par 67 to grab the second round clubhouse lead at the SMBC Singapore Open on Friday.

Han, who is chasing his first professional win at the US$1 million Singapore showpiece, surprised even himself when he compiled a two-day total of nine-under-par 133 to give himself a two-shot advantage over Australia’s Adam Scott and Malaysia’s Gavin Green, who was at seven-under through 15 holes before play was suspended due to fading light at 7.21pm.

Scott continues to remain in contention for a record fourth Singapore Open title after he signed for a 67. The Australian, who had the huge galleries following him at the Sentosa Golf Club, returned early at 7.30am to complete his remaining three holes from his first round before heading back out to mix his card with five birdies and one bogey for a 135 total.

Scott’s title ambitions will be put to test by a fast-charging Angelo Que of the Philippines, who stormed up the leaderboard with a 69 to share fourth place with Singapore’s Quincy Quek as the iconic Singapore showpiece heads into the weekend rounds.
Quek can expect the local crowd to cheer him on as he continues his amazing run on home soil, firing three birdies in his closing four holes to sign for a 68.

Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert, who has made great strides in his career since he first teed up in the Lion City, returned with a 71 to stay in touch with the leaders in tied-sixth place that also features India’s Gagnjeet Bhullar and defending champion Younghan Song of Korea.

Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung finally made the cut in his fifth attempt at the US$1 million event that is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

Sentosa specialist Scott snatches clubhouse lead

Three-time champion Adam Scott continued his love affair with the SMBC Singapore Open on Friday by snatching the clubhouse lead midway through the second round after a delightful 67 that thrilled the large galleries.

Scott sits on seven under 135, a shot ahead of Angelo Que of the Philippines who added a 69 to his first round 67.

The smooth-swinging Australian put the finishing touches to his first round on Friday morning with a birdie at 17 and a disappointing three-putt par at the 18th for a 68 before teeing up for his second round on the 10th at Sentosa Golf Club.

The world number seven made a fast start with an opening birdie and picked up another shot at the 12th hole before dropping a shot at the next.

His second birdie of the day at the 17th was followed by some brilliant shot making on 18 which nearly brought him an eagle. A booming drive set up a short approach to the par-five and he stuck it to 12 foot, only to miss a makeable putt.

The second nine was more barren with just a single birdie at the fourth but Scott looked in full control of his game over The Serapong Course which he knows so well.

Although he gave himself plenty looks at birdie his line and length was slightly off.

Que, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, kept on the heels of Scott with four birdies and two bogeys.

Defending champion Younghan Song, who matched Scott’s 68 in the first round, failed to keep pace with his playing partner and finished round two a couple behind after an up-and-down 69.

He miscued a few times from the fairway and two early bogeys put him on the back foot. He carded two more bogeys but a putting masterclass helped him pick up six birdies which limited the damage.

Joint first round leader Satoshi Kodaira (72) and Thais Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Panuphol Pittayarat, who shot matching 71s, joined Song in the clubhouse, two behind Scott.

Ernie Els, twice a runner-up at the Singapore Open, looks like missing the cut after adding a level-par 71 to his opening 73.

Japan Tour number one Yuta Ikeda, who was in the same group as Scott and Song, will also sit out the weekend. He failed to hit the heights of late 2016, when he won twice and finished runner-up six times. and carded rounds of 74-70.

Japan’s Hideto Tanihara and Korea’s Kyungnam Kang, who led with Kodaira after the first round, were amongst the afternoon starters in the SMBC Singapore Open which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Tour Golf Organisation.

Coletta poised for weekend action on pro debut

Rising star Brett Coletta of Australia had a professional debut to savour at the SMBC Singapore Open when he bookended his two under 69 with a birdie and an eagle.

Twenty-year old Coletta, who shook up Australian golf last year by winning the Queensland Open and coming second in the NSW Open, is playing the prestigious tournament on an invitation.

With a swing that has been compared to that of countryman Adam Scott, the three-time Singapore Open champion, Coletta’s debut as a professional was much anticipated and he did not disappoint.

He made the perfect start to his pro career with a birdie at the first hole and picked up another shot at the third.

Three subsequent bogeys put pressure on the youngster but, in fading light after a long rain break, he finished in style with a birdie at the 16th hole and an eagle at the par-five 18th.

His second round on Friday lacked the fireworks of round one but his one-over 72 for a one under total of 141 sees him well placed to make the cut.

Coletta, the strokeplay medallist at the 2015 US Amateur Championship, endured the highs and lows of tournament golf in the latter part of 2016.

After finishing runner-up to countryman Curtis Luck in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Korea last October – Luck having roared back from seven shots behind at the start of the final round – Coletta regrouped and just a fortnight later beat a strong field of professionals to triumph in the Queensland Open at The Brisbane Golf Club.

He became the first amateur to win the event since Australian Stuart Appleby lifted the title in 1991.

Coletta underlined his potential by finishing joint runner-up to compatriot Adam Blyth at the NSW Open in early November, results which convinced him it was time to relinquish his amateur status.

“I have been working hard for several years to reach the point where I think my game can contend at the professional level and those results proved to me that it’s time to give it a shot,” he said after announcing his decision.

“Losing out to Curtis in the Asia-Pacific Amateur was a pretty tough hit to take, but it also taught me a lot of invaluable lessons you can’t always find on the practice range.

“I think I showed it didn’t affect me and that I learnt from it, so hopefully my game will stand up in Singapore and beyond.”