Chon Buri - Newly-crowned Asian Tour winner and member Justin Harding of South Africa is hoping to ace another stern test with his intelligent game plan at the Royal Cup which begins on Thursday.
The 32-year-old clinched his maiden Asian Tour title just two weeks ago in Indonesia and is hoping to continue that winning run after surviving a long-haul flight that finally brought him to the Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club.
Harding will spearhead the strong international challenge in the 156-men field with 32 other Asian Tour winners including Malaysia’s Danny Chia and Australia’s Todd Sinnott who are determined to end their lean spells this season.
“I’ve been playing well and I won three tournaments on the Sunshine Tour and one on the Asian Tour already. I have just been playing more intelligent golf,” said Harding the seven-time winner on the Sunshine Tour.
“This is my first visit to Thailand, I have only ever been to Asia once before I played in Indonesia. It was the travelling back and forth that was the toughest part. The grass is a little different in Asia and is probably the trickiest part of the game that I have had to adjust to,” said the South African who played college golf at Lamar university in Texas.
Chia, a two-time Asian Tour winner, has had a long history with battling injuries, after a shoulder injury in 2013 nearly ended his career. The Malaysian revealed he is suffering from a hip injury this year due to his busy schedule on the Japan circuit and the Asian Tour but will keep his head up high this week and rely on his course knowledge to put up a good showing at the US$500,000 event.
“I have been doing some physiotherapy and exercise to try and get my body back on track before this week but it’s been a process. Still feeling a bit stiff but and I have not had the time to target the problem and get treated,” said Chia.
Sinnott has also been juggling his time between several Tours this season and has yet to enjoy a top-10 finish on the Asian Tour this year.
The 26-year-old, who won his maiden Asian Tour title in Myanmar in his rookie season last year, plans to stay positive despite enduring a frustrating start to his season.
The Royal Cup is the Tour’s fourth stop in Thailand this year and is held in honour of His Majesty King Rama X who will celebrate his 66th birthday this Saturday. Former Thai ace Thongchai Jaidee, young gun Pachara Kongwatmai and current Thailand Open champion Panuphol Pittayarat are local potential players to keep the trophy of King Rama X at home.