Chonburi, Thailand, February 25: Thailand’s Prom Meesawat earned his maiden appearance at The Open Championship after winning the International Final Qualifying Asia on Friday.
Prom, a one-time Asian Tour winner, fired a superb second round seven-under-par 65 for a two-day aggregate of 12-under-par 132 to lead Japanese veteran Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing and American Jason Knutzon into The Open at Royal St George’s in July.
Hiratsuka, whose three victories in Asia last season included two titles in Thailand, earned his second trip to the Open with the day’s best of 64 at Amata Spring Country Club while Lam secured his third appearance with a bogey-free 67.
Knutzon endured a nervous wait for the fourth and final spot after his 67 as overnight leader Kodai Ichihara had a chance to force a play-off. But the stocky Japanese missed his birdie chance on 18 to finish one shot shy of qualifying.
The 26-year-old Prom was delighted to earn his Major stripes. “It’s my first Major. I played very good the past two days. My driving and everything else was very good. I’ve been working hard with my coach and psychologist and I need to thank them.”
It was a welcome return to form for the former world amateur junior champion whose form dipped after finishing twice in the top-10 of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit in 2006 and 2007. With his successful qualifying campaign, Prom is now eyeing a memorable trip to Royal St George’s.
“My friends have been encouraging me all along when my form wasn’t good. It’s a good comeback for me. It’s a good feeling. I played to my strength on this course. I knew which holes to be cautious. To qualify for the oldest Major, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Hiratsuka, fifth on the Merit rankings last year, stormed home in 30 to book his first trip to the Open since 2004 when he finished tied 36th at Royal Troon. “I played well despite my body condition being not so good. But on the back nine, I played fantastic golf. I hit it close with my irons for some easy birdies,” said Hiratsuka.
“I normally am not nervous but today, I felt a bit uneasy. I’ve not played in the Open since 2004, so it is good to qualify again,” added Hiratsuka.
Lam, who shot five birdies on the card, must now cancel a planned trip to Pebble Beach in the summer after forcing his way into third place. “I was meant to play Pebble Beach but I’ll go over to the Open anytime,” he smiled.
“Playing in the Open has been one of the highlights of my career and I’m looking forward to it again. I drove the ball really good this week and didn’t miss a fairway in two days which was the key. I think I’ll go there to enjoy the week and try to make the cut again (as he did in 2008).
“I love playing links course. We don’t get anything like that in this part of the world and that’s how golf was meant to be played. I had a number in my head today and it was nine-under and figured that if I got to nine, I would be safe. I was just solid,” he said.
Knutzon, who has played in the US Open previously, closed with a 67 to earn his ticket. He was relieved at the end of the day after Ichihara left his 18-foot birdie chance short for a play-off.
“I’m really excited. I’ve not played much over there and I’m looking forward to this one. It’ll be fun as I’ve not played in the British Open before. I am surprised I got through as I was using this as a practice week but a few things clicked.”
Leading second round scores
132: Prom Meesawat (Tha) 67-65
134: Tetsuji Hiratsuka (Jpn) 70-64
135: Lam Chih Bing (Sin) 68-67
136: Jason Knutzon (US) 69-67
(Top four qualify for the Open Championship)
137: Kodai Ichihara (Jpn) 65-72
138: Tony Carolan (Aus) 69-69, Liang Wen-chong (Chn) 68-70, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (Tha) 68-70, Gavin Flint (Aus) 68-70
139: Hiroshi Iwata (Jpn) 71-68, Zaw Moe (Myn) 70-69, Shiv Kapur (Ind) 66-73, Kim Hyung-sung (Kor) 67-72, Lee Sung (Kor) 66-73, Chinnarat Phadungsil (Tha) 68-71, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 68-71, Miles Tunnicliff (Eng) 68-71, Himmat Rai (Ind) 71-68
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com