Malaysian standout Nicholas Fung hopes to improve his standings on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with a strong showing at the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup which starts on Thursday.
Fung, the 2013 Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion, will also put his chase for a breakthrough victory at the back of his mind when he steps up to the tee at the highly-acclaimed Ibaraki Country Club’s West course.
“This is my first time in Osaka. I am very excited. The course seems to be playing longer because of the rain but other than that, it is in a good shape. I am slowly regaining my good form too. I have been playing well recently,” said the bespectacled 26-year-old.
Fung, one of the promising stars to emerge from Malaysia, had shown positive signs of edging closer to that elusive win. He has notched two top-10 finishes this season, including a tied-third place result in Chinese Taipei in June.
“Now that I have more or less secured my card for next year, I am working on other goals, such as claiming my breakthrough win and qualifying for the CIMB Classic. A good result this week will boost my rankings. That is my main aim for now,” Fung added.
Placed 29th on the current Order of Merit, Fung needs to break into top-10 before the cut-off date on October 17 to qualify for the lucrative CIMB Classic in Malaysia next month.
Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng, a nine-time winner on the region’s premier Tour, will also be one of the top draws at the ¥150 million (approximately US$1.3 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour.
Prayad proved once again that old is indeed gold when he claimed three victories in the last two months playing in what was his first season on the Japan Senior Tour. He had previously won four titles on the regular Tour in Japan.
“I still feel good physically. My game has been good too and I hope to maintain my good form this week. Winning on the Japan Senior Tour has given me a lot of confidence but I know it is a lot more competitive on the Asian Tour.
“I have played a lot of tournaments in Japan and I am familiar with the courses and playing conditions here. Hopefully my local knowledge will be an advantage for me this week,” said the 50-year-old, who won the Diamond Cup in 2008 before it came on board the Asian Tour in 2014.
Korea’s Jeunghun Wang, Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, placed third and fourth respectively on the Order of Merit, will also feature in the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup alongside Jeev Milkha Singh of India, Thai legend Thaworn Wiratchant and China’s Liang Wen-chong.
They will face off a strong local challenge spearheaded by Hideto Tanihara, highest ranked Japanese in 75th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Yuta Ikeda, Shingo Katayama and Masahiro Kawamura, who had conquered the Ibaraki Country Club’s West course for his first Asian Tour title three years ago.
“I felt a strong sense of nostalgia coming back to this course where I claimed my very first victory on the Asian Tour. Time has passed by so quickly. I didn’t even realise it has been three years already! This is not an easy course. You need a lot of patience to play well here. Course management will be key,” reflected the 23-year-old Kawamura.
The Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup is the Asian Tour’s second stop in Japan this season. The Tour will also be returning to the Ibaraki Country Club for the first time since 2013.