Australian Marcus Fraser, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will headline the Panasonic Open Golf Championship alongside Asia’s rising stars at the Chiba Country Club from April 21 to 24.
Fraser, who claimed his second Asian Tour title in Malaysia in February, will be joined by Filipino Miguel Tabuena, who is second on the Order of Merit, and last year’s Rookie of the Year Natipong Srithong of Thailand in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
India’s Rashid Khan, a two-time Asian Tour winner, and Thai duo Danthai Boonma and Phachara Khongwatmai, who will make his debut at The Open in July, will also feature in the 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.27 million) tournament.
Presently ranked 64th in the world, Fraser ended a six-year title drought when he won the Maybank Championship Malaysia title to move to the top of the Order of Merit rankings and qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship and WGC-Dell Match Play earlier this year.
The likeable Australian will head to Japan with the goal of extending his Merit lead over the 21-year-old Tabuena, whom he defeated in Malaysia by two shots.
“There is pretty good incentive when you take up membership on the Asian Tour. I look to play my minimum (events) but I always try to make the effort to play my minimum. I did it last year so fingers crossed I get to do it again this year,” said Fraser.
“I love playing in Asia because I can be home first thing Monday morning with the kids and walk them to school. I always like coming out here and support the Asian Tour as much as I can,” added the 37-year-old.
Since winning his first Asian Tour title at the Philippine Open presented by ICTSI in December, the talented Tabuena has continued to shine with impressive performances this season.
He finished tied fourth at the season opening SMBC Singapore Open and settled for tied second place in Malaysia to raise his season’s haul to US$320,303 and trail Fraser by slightly over US$200,000.
With the Olympics qualifying looming, Tabuena knows he must seize every opportunity he has in hope of representing his country in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“The main goal this year is to play in the Olympics and contend for the number one spot on the Asian Tour. I’ve put myself in a good position to do that,” he said.