Credit: Asian Tour
Quartet flying the flag for Thailand
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jazz Janewattanond, Prom Meesawat and Gunn Charoenkul are ready to fulfill their major ambitions by putting up strong performances at The 148th Open which gets underway next week.
Flying the Thai flag for the Asian Tour, the quartet are proven winners in their own right and will now be seeking to extend their winning run at golf’s oldest Major which returns to the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush after 68 years.
No player in the elite field has ever contested a Major at Royal Portrush before and The 148th Open, which tees off from July 18-21, will now provide everyone with an equal chance as they tee off against the spectacular golfing links on the coast of north Antrim in Northern Ireland.
Kiradech, who is the highest ranked Thai at 51st on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), will be making his sixth appearance at The Open.
While he has missed the cuts in four of his previous appearances in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, a tied-75th finish saw him make the weekend rounds for the first time in Carnoustie last year.
As the first Thai golfer to hold a PGA TOUR card, Kiradech has since enjoyed an encouraging start in the United States with commendable results that include a tied-third and fifth finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship and AT&T Byron Nelson respectively this year.
“I’ve worked hard over the last few years and I’ve given myself some chances. I’m not far off from winning. It’s a dream come true and I hope I can make my country proud with my achievements.
“I want to do everything I can to win the biggest tournaments. That’s my goal,” said the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.
Jazz, who is one spot below Kiradech on the OWGR, is also making waves on the international scene and will be teeing up at The Open for the second time after winning the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open.
“Playing in The Open last year was a huge moment in my career and I’m so happy to have qualified again by winning the Singapore Open. Getting a place in The Open is the best and I’m looking forward to the challenges at Royal Portrush,” said Jazz.
A fourth career victory and second of the year at the Kolon Korea Open elevated his status to a career-high of 52nd place on the OWGR.
The young Thai was also in contention at the PGA Championship in May and finished a commendable tied-14 place which was also the best result by a Thai at that Major.
“I’ve been playing quite consistently this year and I’m really pleased with how things are going for me at the moment. I heard the conditions at Royal Portrush are going to be very tough but I’m ready,” said Jazz, who is currently leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit and money list on the Japan Golf Tour.
Like Jazz, Prom is also making his second appearance at The Open. The two-time Asian Tour winner punched his ticket to The 148th Open with his tied-fifth finish in Singapore and will be hoping to extend his stay this time around at Royal Portrush.
“It’s nice to be going back to play in The Open this July for my second appearance in a Major championship. I still remember the experience of playing in The Open at Royal St George’s in 2011. It is one of the greatest Majors and I have been trying to qualify again ever since. I am happy to finally have the chance to play in The Open again," said Prom.
Charoenkul, who finished second at Asian Tour Qualifying School in December last year to regain his Tour card, will meanwhile be making his debut at The Open after finishing tied-third at the Mizuno Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series on the Japan Golf Tour.
“This will be my first Major championship and it will be a valuable experience. I look forward to playing at Royal Portrush for the first time,” said Gunn.