Australian Scott Hend will be looking to make the most out of his limited preparation for his title defence at the US$650,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters starting on Thursday.
Big-hitting Hend flew into Taipei only this morning following a missed flight from Bangkok after being caught in a traffic jam in the Thai capital. However, he is not panicking ahead of the opening round at the challenging Taiwan Golf and Country Club’s Tamsui course.
“It’s a shame that my lead-up to playing this tournament was hampered by a missed flight but I will deal with the limited preparation the best that I can. It’s great to come back and battle the course again,” said the 41-year-old.
A top field has gathered for the popular Asian Tour event which will feature local hotshots Chan Shih-chang and Lin Wen-tang, Thai stars Thaworn Wiratchant, Prom Meesawat and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, American Jason Knutzon, Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun, young Filipino Miguel Tabuena and Chinese veteran Zhang Liang-wei.
Hend knows he faces an acid test to defend the first of three tournaments which he brilliantly won last season on the Asian Tour. He said he will draw on his happy memories from last year’s victory in Tamsui to spur him on.
“My win last year was a great show of fortitude. I came off playing average in Europe and ground out a great week to win in Taipei. This course is a test of patience. I was just rewarded last year for hanging in there,” said Hend.
Hend has yet to hit his top form this season, with his best result being a tied 18th finish at the Maybank Malaysian Open. He admitted that he need to overcome a recent poor driving spell before harboring hopes of putting himself in contention.
“My game is very rusty at the moment. I haven’t played a lot of events this year. I am the type of player who plays better when I play more. I cracked my driver face earlier and have struggled to replace it. My driving of the tee ball has been poor,” he said.
Local hero Lin, who won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2009, is hopeful that he can take advantage of his course knowledge and past experiences to stage a title charge this week.
“This Tamsui course has got to be one of the most challenging courses that I’ve ever played in Taipei. It is a very tight golf course. You need good drives to play well and you have to hit as many greens as possible. However, I think the course conditions have improved a lot this year so I’m looking forward to playing tomorrow,” said Lin.
Antonio Lascuna, who is fourth on the Merit list, will continue his chase for a maiden win, having come close with a play-off loss in Malaysia two weeks ago. He is one of the most consistent players in the game, having claimed three top-three finishes on the Asian Tour and one Asian Development Tour title this year.
The Filipino wants another strong showing to keep himself in position to qualify for the upcoming CIMB Classic in Malaysia and WGC-HSBC Champions in China in November. Both events have a combined US$15.5 million prize money on offer.
“My game’s feeling good. I’m very happy with how I’ve performed so far this season. My current aim is to qualify for the big events so I will try my best to finish well. I hope I can maintain my position within top-five on the merit rankings,” said the 43-year-old Filipino.
The long-running Mercuries Taiwan Masters, which is celebrating its 28th edition this week, will feature a cosmopolitan cast with players from 18 countries battling for the winner’s cheque of US$130,000.
The event is the penultimate tournament for players to qualify for the CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions. As of October 20, the leading four golfers from the Order of Merit will earn starting places in the US$8.5 million HSBC Champions while the leading 10 players will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic.
ASIAN TOUR MEDIA ADVISORY
This week’s event: Mercuries Taiwan Masters
Prize Money: US$650,000 (winner’s purse: US$130,000)
Venue: Taiwan Golf and Country Club
Starts: From October 2 (Thursday) to October 5 (Sunday)
Top contenders: Scott Hend (Aus – defending champion), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Jason Knutzon (USA), Baek Seuk-hyun (Kor), Prom Meesawat (Tha), Chapchai Nirat (Tha), Miguel Tabuena (Phi), Lin Wen-tang (Tpe), Chan Shih-chang (Tpe)
Fast Facts – 2014 Mercuries Taiwan Masters
- The Asian Tour returns to Taiwan for the second time in four weeks.
- Prom Meesawat of Thailand will be looking to complete the Taiwan double by winning the Mercuries Taiwan Masters. He won the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Chinese Taipei three weeks ago.
- Home hero Lu Wei-chih is the only player to achieve this feat when he won both events in 2011. The three-time Asian Tour winner will be competing this week as well.
- Defending champion Scott Hend of Australia will aim for a successful title defence. The last man to do so at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters was Lu Wen-teh of Chinese Taipei in 2007 and 2008.
- Lu Wen-teh has the record number of wins at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters where he won on four occasions (1994, 1996, 2007 & 2008). Tsai Chi-huang and Lu Wei-chih have both won the event twice.
- 74-year-old Hsieh Min-nan who holds the accolade as the oldest man to make a cut on the Asian Tour will aim to rewrite his own record this week. He made the cut in the 2010 edition at the age of 70 years and 53 days.
- The Mercuries Taiwan Masters will be the penultimate Asian Tour event for players to qualify for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
- The Mercuries Taiwan Masters will be represented by 18 Nations.