Clever Harding hopes to taste success again at the Royal Cup

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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.

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.

 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.

Did you know?

  • Justin Harding is a seven-time winner on the Sunshine Tour and currently leads their Order of Merit for the 2018-2019 season.
  •  Harding made his mark on the Asian Tour at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open 2018 where he won by one-shot with his winning total of 18-under-par 270 total.
  •  Harding immediately took up membership on the Asian Tour following his win in Indonesia and currently sits on 32nd place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.
  •  The South African played college golf at Lamar university in Texas.
  •  Danny chia became the first Malaysian to win on the Asian Tour with his victory at the 2002 Taiwan Open.
  • Chia captured his second Asian Tour victory at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2015, a year after undergoing a neck surgery to repair a compressed nerve problem which was paralyzing his left arm.
  • He has been splitting his time between the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour this year having qualified on the Japanese circuit with a 19th place finish in the Final Qualifying Tournament held in Ibaraki.
  • Todd Sinnott turned professional in 2015.
  • Sinnott won the 2017 Leopalace21 Myanmar Open by three shots after only earning his Asian Tour card two weeks prior to his triumph.
  • The Australian has had a lean spell since his win and only made three cuts in his seven starts this season.

Player’s quotes:

Justin Harding (Rsa)

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. My team back home sat me down and we just looked at my statistics to try and eliminate mistakes I am making to play more sensibly.

I’m still playing aggressively but with a little more intelligence now. I’ve been finding myself on the leaderboard more often now that I am playing smart golf. I’ve always been pretty good as a front runner and I have matured a little bit more this year in approaching tournaments so that’s been working for me.

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.

I’ve never travelled so much, so I battled a little last week in Kenya, I feel fine this week but I hope the jetlag doesn’t kick in later. Adjusting to the heat in Asia was a challenge, coming from cold weather back home and then back to humidity, I’m just trying to keep myself hydrated and exert as little energy as possible.

But I don’t see a huge difference competition-wise on both Tours. I played with a couple of guys in Indonesia and they play really good golf. It’s still the same game we’re playing, the biggest different is who has a better game plan for the week.

We had an event in Kenya on the Sunshine Tour last week so I decided to fly from Indonesia to Kenya and then come back this week so it’s been a lot of travelling. I haven’t completely settled down but it’s nice that I have friends on Tour like Keith (Horne) and Lyle, to get advice from. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable in a different environment.

Danny Chia (Mas)

I took some time off last week as I had to get some treatment on my hips which have been giving me trouble and I sprained my knee a couple of weeks ago. I feel like I am burning myself out from playing too much golf this year and that’s why my injuries are starting to come back. I have had a busy schedule, splitting my time between the Japan Tour and the Asian Tour and I didn’t pace myself.

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. I am taking another week off next week to get it sorted out.

I think the biggest struggle this year has been adjusting to different greens. It’s a much tougher setup in Japan. The greens are faster than what I am used to so I had to force myself to adapt quickly. I started to hit the ball better in the last two months but then the injury kicked in again. Pretty much been the story of my life having to deal with injury after injury.

It’s tough but it’s something I have to live with. I am 46 this year so I have to start looking out for my body and not stress is as much as I did when I was younger. I’ve been through so many tough times in my career and this is just another bump in the road. Once I get my body sorted out I can have peace of mind to play my game.

It’s not a long golf course this week. I would say distance control and precision with where you land your ball on the greens are key to playing well. The greens are tricky too so I’ll be spending the most time on that before the tournament starts on Thursday.

Todd Sinnott (Aus)

I played a practice round with Travis (Smyth) today and he’s played here before so I have been relying on him today for tips. The greens here are small and the golf course is good, better than what I thought it would be. Green speeds seem to be different on both nines but I’m excited to play it this week. The course really suits my game, there are a couple of drivable par fours so I’ll be pretty aggressive.

My game hasn’t been great in recent times. But I just sat down with my coach Marty Joyce, and we’ve been working on a lot of technical stuff. The past week I have been back home practicing everyday and putting in the work so I am coming into this week pretty confident. I just need to stick to the process and let the results come.

I know exactly what I need to fix and it has been a frustrating period but everything happens for a reason and I just want to move forward and start getting some good results.

I have played four events on the Japan Tour, a little bit on the PGA Tour of Australasia and some Asian Tour events. So, I have been splitting myself between all three Tours. The courses in Asia are more suited for my game and my schedule will mostly be Asian Tour events and a couple on the Japan circuit for the second half of the year.

My friend from back home is on my bag this week and he’s really smart so I trust him. We train together when I’m home and he knows my game and we just work really well together.

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