Chonburi, Thailand: Thai hero Prayad Marksaeng plans to snap up one of four tickets at stake in the two-day Open Championship International Final Qualifying – Asia starting at Amata Spring Country Club tomorrow.
The six-time Asian Tour winner has a mission to accomplish as three previous visits to the world’s oldest Major ended in disappointment but with the IFQ – Asia held in Thailand for the first time, Prayad knows he has a strong chance to set his record right by qualifying for a fourth appearance.
“I’ve been to the Open previously but have missed three cuts there. It’s something which I hope to improve but I need to qualify first,” said the 45-year-old veteran.
A tied 11th outing at the Asian Tour’s season-opening event, the Avantha Masters in India last weekend showed his game is solid enough to contend for an Open spot although 76 other players, which is a record number of entries for the IFQ – Asia since its inauguration in 2004, will also have the same goal.
While the magnificent Amata Spring, famed for its spectacular island green on the par three 17th hole which requires players to take a boat ride after teeing off, is not quite similar to the links courses which host the Open, the swirling winds in Chonburi will provide a good test.
“This morning, it was calm when we played but yesterday, it was very windy,” said Prayad, who competed in the Open in 1999, 2008 and 2009. “My game is feeling good but I need to improve on my putting. The lines were off last week.”
Countryman Thaworn Wiratchant, who qualified and finished a creditable tied 31st in the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, is relishing a chance to earn a ticket to Royal St George’s in July.
“I enjoyed the experience then,” said the 2005 Asian number one. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope to play well to qualify again.”
Thaworn and Prayad also shared their Open experiences with Thai junior golfers in the afternoon through a golf clinic organised by the R&A and showed the youngsters several shots required for links golf.
A top field which includes Liang Wen-chong, China’s first Asian Tour Order of Merit champion in 2007, India’s Gagangeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur, Bangladesh sensation Siddikur and Thai hopefuls Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Pariya Junhasavasdikul will bid for a top-four finish in the 36-hole contest.
Danny Chia, who made history for Malaysia when he qualified and played four rounds at St Andrews last year, is also in the field alongside Singaporean duo Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing, who have also enjoyed Open experiences.
The talented Bhullar, who won three domestic events at the start of the season, is bent on getting back to the Open after his debut two years ago which provided the springboard to success in Asia.
“I’ve been on a good run and there are a lot of positives. I’ve played on Amata Spring previously and there are positive memories. Playing in the Open changed my life. Right after missing the cut, I won my first Asian Tour event and it’s been a good series of results since then. It boosted my confidence and it changed me as a person and a player,” said the 22-year-old, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour.
After becoming the first Bangladeshi to make history and win on the Asian Tour last year with his triumph at the Brunei Open, Siddikur is eyeing greater glory by playing his way to Royal St George’s.
“There’s a lot to play for. It’s great that I have a chance to qualify for the first time and I’m very excited. The game feels good enough. When I was growing up, I didn’t know about the Majors. It was only when I started playing more that I learnt about the Open. It will be wonderful if I can qualify,” said the 26-year-old, who grew up as a ball boy in a Dhaka golf club.
Japanese amateur Hideki Matsuyama, who earned his place at IFQ by winning the Asian Amateur Championship in Japan last year, will hope to emulate 2009 Asian Amateur runner-up Eric Chun of Korea, who made his Open debut at St Andrews after progressing through IFQ Asia.
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com