Photo - Asian Tour
PARK HOPES TO FIND WINNING SPARK IN PANASONIC OPEN
Kobe: Australian Unho Park intends to continue on his recent renaissance when he competes in the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open which begins on Thursday.
The Singapore-based Park is one of the men in form heading into the ¥150,000,000 (approximately US$1.7 million) event jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour after finishing eighth and 11th in his previous two starts in Singapore and Taipei respectively.
Long regarded as one of the best players yet to win on the Asian Tour, the sweet-swinging Park will be gunning for a maiden triumph at the Rokko Kokusai Golf Club and a return to the Panasonic Open will certainly boost his confidence.
“I always love going back to Japan. It’s a different course this year but the strength of the field is still strong and I’ll do my best. I’ve been hitting the ball well of late and if I can put four good rounds together, I may be able to achieve something,” said the 36-year-old Park, who has accumulated 22 career top-10s on the Asian Tour.
At last year’s event, Park finished tied seventh on a different venue but feels absolutely at home in Japan. He will face a top class field which includes current Asian Tour’s Order of Merit leader Noh Seung-yul of Korea, reigning Japan Tour number one Ryo Ishikawa, title holder Daisuke Maruyama and last week’s Yeangder Tournament Players Championship winner Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand.
Many of this season’s winners on the Asian Tour will also feature in the annual showpiece against their Japanese counterparts.
Australian duo Marcus Fraser and Andrew Dodt, ranked second and third respectively on the Order of Merit, Filipino Angelo Que, South African Peter Karmis, Bangladesh’s Siddikur and Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg will headline the event.
Other marquee Asian names in the field include Korea’s Bae Sang-moon, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia and C. Muniyappa, and six-time winner Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand.
There will be plenty to play for as a top cheque of US$350,000 is at stake this week which could well change the shape of the race to become the new Asian Tour’s number one this season.
Presently, the 19-year-old Noh, one of Asia’s brightest stars to emerge in recent years, holds a lead of US$96,000 from Fraser and is pushing to become the youngest ever Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.
All eyes will also be on Ishikawa, nicknamed the “Bashful Prince” by the Japanese media. Since winning a Japan Golf Tour event at the age of 15, Ishikawa has taken the world of golf by storm with his play and boyish good looks.