Rattanon plots second Thailand Open victory

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Young talent Rattanon Wannasrichan aims to become the second Thai player to win multiple Thailand Open titles when the event gets underway on Thursday.

The 22-year-old became the fourth local player to win his National Open last year and will be eyeing a successful title defence at the Thai Country Club, which he rates as his favourite course.

Thai legend Boonchu Ruangkit is the only local player to win the prestigious event twice in 1992 and 2004.

There will be extra motivation for Rattanon to do well this week as the Thailand Open marks the start of the 2018-2019 Panasonic Swing race which will see players battle it out in an aggregate points ranking at five selected tournaments across Asia.

Joining the young Thai in the US$300,000 Asian Tour event are Rahil Gangjee of India, who is the highest ranked player in third place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings and newly-crowned Asian Tour champion, John Catlin of the United States.

Gangjee is still feeling the after-effects of ending a 14-year wait for a second Asian Tour title at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship in April. His confidence is still high but the 39-year-old prefers to keep his expectations low.  

The 28-year-old Catlin won his first Asian Tour title at the Asia-Pacific Classic in China last month and is relishing the opportunity to contend at the Thailand Open. The American is confident of doing well in the country where he has set-up base since coming to Asia two years ago.

Did you know?

  • Rattanon became only the fourth Thai player to win his National Open after after Suthep Meesawat (1991), Boonchu Ruangkit (1992 and 2004) and Prayad Marksaeng (2013) to win the prestigious tournament since its inception in 1965.
  • Rattanon is one of the highly rated young golfers to emerge from Thailand. He won his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the 2015 Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei before securing his first Asian Tour win last year.
  • He won the Thailand Open with a winning total of 21-under-par 263 total and only dropped four bogeys the entire week. He held at least a share of the lead since the opening round last year.
  • Rattanon said the Thai Country Club is his favourite course because of the hot weather.
  • He represented Thailand during his amateur days and won the team and individual gold medals at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.
  • Gangjee is adopting a different approach this week and will keep his expectations low. He said “If my expectations go down low, it is okay because that’s when I play my best golf.”
  • He is ranked third on the Habitat for Humanity Standings where he trails the leader and countryman Shubhankar Sharma by slightly more than US$300,000.
  • Gangjee’s future took a turn for the better when he won the Panasonic Open Golf Championship in April. Prior to the win, he missed five cuts and retired twice in seven appearances.
  • Catlin sharpened his game on the ADT before going on to win on the Asian Tour last month. He is also a two-time ADT winner.
  • At the age of 27, Catlin believes Thailand is his ‘home away from home’ as he has been based in Hua Hin in the last two years.
  • Before turning professional, Catlin earned the honours of being named an All-American in two of the four years he spent at the New Mexico University.

Players’ quotes:

Rattanon Wannasrichan (Tha)

It feels good to be back here. I want to try and win again. If I can putt as good as I did last year, I believe I have a chance. The greens are quite firm this year and it will be difficult to get up-and-down around the greens. If you hit the greens, you will have a better chance at getting birdies.

I came close to winning the 2017-2018 Panasonic Swing but I was nervous on the last day of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship (final Panasonic Swing event). I didn’t win but I did earn a bonus of US$30,000 so I was very happy with that.

When I smile, I don’t feel nervous. I feel relaxed. I just want to follow the same game plan and hope to sink my putts. Last year I hit many fairways and my putter was really hot. Last year, I was very proud when I became only the fourth Thai player to win the Thailand Open. It is a very good record for me because it was also my first Asian Tour title.

If I win, I think I’m lucky but I really want to try and win it again this year because I really like this golf course. It is not my home course but I like the hot weather here.

Rahil Gangjee (Ind)

It has been unreal (on his win at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship in Japan). There was enough excitement when I got home. We had a nice big party, all my friends came and even though it was after a week, it still felt unreal. I still feel excited when people remind me about the final day in Japan.

Confidence is the key thing in golf. It is like a chicken and egg situation. You play well and get confidence or you have confidence and play well? The key word is ‘confidence’ whichever way you get it. It must be there in your game.

I absolutely did not expect to win, let’s be truthful. It was about a year and half since I played decent golf and there was something lacking in the game. I started working on things which I haven’t in the past and had time to reflect during the quiet weeks.

My expectations were way down. It is something which I don’t mind. If my expectations go down low, it is okay because that’s when I play my best golf. When you don’t have expectations, you feel relaxed and you play the way you need and supposed to play.

I felt my expectations were a bit high in recent weeks but it was something which I addressed immediately. I’m on the path to get rid of expectations. For me, having that expectation and putting pressure on myself doesn’t work.

I’m not chasing anything anymore. If it happens, it happens. It was a long time since I won and over that period you look back and you ask yourself what’s going on? I’ve played well and kept my Tour card every year but you look back at the bigger picture and you tell yourself that you need to do things differently.

This mind-set comes with age. Experience is the biggest teacher. If somebody had told me this when I was 24, I might not have known how to put it into action. When you are young got the power of the world behind you and you want to just beat everybody. As you get older, you realise that you have to play a certain way to be able to beat everybody.

John Catlin (Usa)

Thailand always feels  like a home away from home ever since I came here two years ago. It was a very easy transition for me. The people here are friendly and the food is good. It has been a great home base for me. As long as I’m playing the Asian Tour, I will definitely be based in Thailand.

The win in China was huge. My goal in the beginning of the year was to win on the Asian Tour so it was good that I did it so early in the season. I’m really excited to keep going. Anytime you put yourself in the winner’s circle, it’s awesome and it gives you a lot of confidence.

The hard work has definitely been showing dividends. I kept telling myself to stay patient and hit the shot you feel comfortable with. You never know when the win will come and when it does, it feels fantastic.

The ADT is great. It is a four-day tournament and it gives you Official World Golf Ranking points. For me it was huge playing on the ADT because it gave me the comfort of travelling around Asia and playing on different grasses. I felt a lot more confident playing on the Asian Tour this year because the ADT prepared me for it.

The win is huge… monstrous for my confidence. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to win again and say it to myself that I’ve been here and I’ve done it.

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