Gavin Green of Malaysia will spearhead the Asian Tour challenge at the SMBC Singapore Open later this month as he looks to start the new year on a high note after a history-making campaign in 2017.
The big-hitting 24-year-old became the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit, with earnings of US$585,813, after a stellar 12 months that saw him record his maiden win and finish runner-up three times.
Other Asian Tour heavyweights in the field include defending champion Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, in-form Indian Shiv Kapur, countrymen SSP Chawrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Jeev Milkha Singh – all multiple winners with Singh triumphant here in 2008 – Arjun Atwal, captain of Team Asia at the upcoming EurAsiaCup, and former Singapore Open champions Thaworn Wiratchant, Jyoti Randhawa and Zaw Moe.
They will take on Major champions Sergio Garcia of Spain and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, world number 19 Pat Perez of the United States and 2016 champion Song Younghan, from January 18-21.
Green has a score to settle with the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club as he was second at the halfway mark last year before dropping down the leaderboard after a poor third round.
He provided a taster of the heroics to come in 2017 with opening rounds of 66 and 68 last January before his title bid came unstuck with an 82.
The rising star put the blip down to lack of experience and added that he was a much improved player coming into the 2018 tournament.
“It was my first time in that position (placed second at the halfway mark). You know, it was all new,” he said of a round that he would rather forget. “I am a little stronger than last year and control my game a little bit better, control my ball a little better. So yeah, I am looking forward to coming back.”
He added that hitting fairways on the tough Serapong Course was the first priority.
“If you are going to score well, you have to hit a lot of fairways, give yourself looks for birdies and hopefully some of them drop. It will be a rough day definitely if you are in that rough a lot, it will punish you,” he said.
Victory at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and second-place finishes at the Hero Indian Open, Yeangder Heritage and Shinhan Donghae Open propelled him to the Order of Merit title and underlined his huge potential.
“It was an amazing feeling to win the Order of Merit and (12 months on from where it all started) it will be good to come back to the SMBC Singapore Open as the Order of Merit champion,” he said.
Golden oldie Prayad shot a final round 67 last year to jump into top spot for his 10th victory on the Asian Tour and his sixth success on the Japan Tour.
The 51-year-old continued his winning ways throughout the year, triumphing four times on the Japan Senior Tour and finishing 2017 in number one spot on the moneylist for the second time running.
And he showed that he can more than hold his own with his younger rivals with good finishes on the Asian Tour, including joint fourth place in the Royal Cup on home turf during the last week of December.
That tournament was won by Kapur, his third success of 2017 on the Asian Tour.
“If 2018 can come anywhere close (to 2017), I’ll be happy,” he said. “After three weeks of rest and relaxation, I’ll be back competing on the Asian Tour (at the SMBC Singapore Open).”
The 52nd edition of the SMBC Singapore Open will once again be jointly-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation with a prize fund of US$1 million.