'Team Thailand' looking for first Philippine victory
A strong contingent of Thai stars will head to the Philippine Open next week looking to end the country’s title drought in Asia’s oldest national Championship.
Former Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant will spearhead the challenge alongside young guns Chapchai Nirat, second on last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit, and Prom Meesawat at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club from April 3-6.
Despite the success of Thai stars on the Asian Tour over the past decade, it is a surprise that no Thai player has tasted victory in the US$300,000 Philippine Open, which was inaugurated in 1913. The Philippine Open, a full-field Asian Tour event, is the eighth leg of the 2008 season.
The experienced Thaworn, Asia’s number one in 2005, will bank on his track record to steer his title challenge ahead of an elite field which will be headlined by defending champion Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
The 41-year-old Thaworn holds the most number of victories in the region with nine triumphs and has shown some good form of late with three top-20s in his last four appearances on the Asian Tour. He has enjoyed triumphs in seven different countries across Asia and will be hoping to add the Philippines on his list of conquest.
“I am excited to compete in the Philippine Open. I hope to do well next week and ride on my good form this season. My game has been steady and it will be great to produce a win and become the first Thai player to do so in Asia’s oldest national Open,” said Thaworn.
The Bangkok-based Chapchai will also be riding on his new gained confidence following a commendable outing at the WGC – CA Championship in the United States last week where he finished tied 61st in a world-class field. He was also the highest ranked Thai finisher in the Philippine Open last year when he ended his campaign in a tie for fifth place.
Chapchai, nicknamed “King Kong” by his peers because of his booming drives, enjoyed a career breakthrough last season by winning twice in China and Vietnam before finishing second on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
Prom will also be attempting to lift a second career title at the Philippine Open. The burly Thai finished tied third in the Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open last month and will be itching to challenge for glory at the venerable Wack Wack course.
Other top names who will tee up next week include in-form Chinese Taipei player Lin Wen-tang, who triumphed at the inaugural Asian Tour International in Thailand last week, Korea’s Lee Sung, and Simon Yates of Scotland.
Malaysia’s Danny Chia, Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing and Angelo Que of the Philippines, who earned places in the British Open through qualifying in Singapore on Wednesday, will also be looking to extend their rich vein of form at the Philippine Open.
The local charge will be led by title holder Minoza along with rising stars Juvic Pagunsan and Artemio Murakami, who both enjoyed career breakthrough victories on the Asian Tour last season.
March 27, 2008