Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei aims to repeat last year’s heroics despite nursing a minor hand injury at the Taifong Open which starts on Thursday.
The setback will not stop the 29-year-old from defending his title at the US$160,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event against a stellar line-up who include current Order of Merit leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei.
New ADT winner Matthew Giles of Australia, reigning ADT number one Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand, Arie Irawan of Malaysia, Khalin Joshi of India and former Walker Cup player James Byrne of Scotland will also feature in the event.
Chan, a five-time ADT winner, trained hard in preparation for his title defence but his hard work backfired when he injured his hand after practising daily for eight hours.
“I hurt my muscle in my right hand just above my wrist because I think I trained too much. I will definitely play in the event. I injured my hand about four days ago so I’ve been trying my best to recover. Maybe I’ll just hit it softly,” said Chan.
He recalls his remarkable win last year where he overcame a seven-shot deficit and was the last man standing in a five-way play-off.
“It was an amazing win last year. I didn’t expect to be in the play-off because I was seven shots away from the leader. Then I had to beat four other players in the play-off! I’m very proud with my achievement last year,” he smiled.
Thailand’s Pavit missed the halfway cut last year but he will put the experience to good use when he challenges for a fifth ADT title. He will also draw confidence from the warm hospitality he receives in Chinese Taipei.
“It was windy here last year but the scores were still low! You have to keep the ball in play. If you miss the fairway, you will be in danger. I hope I can improve this year after the experience last year,” he said.
“I always like Chinese Taipei because all the golfers take good care of you. It feels like you are playing at home because everyone is friendly. I feel comfortable here.”
An in-form Hsieh hopes to extend his lead on the Order of Merit but will look over his shoulders as numerous players are within range to overtake him.
“The Taifong Open is the richest event on the ADT this season and I definitely hope to do well but my ultimate aim is to win the Order of Merit and get my Asian Tour card for 2016. I am confident of playing better than last year as I feel my game is in a good shape now,” said Hsieh, who missed the cut last year.
Janne Kaske of Finland, who won his first ADT title in May in Malaysia, is determined to get off to a fast start in the second half of the ADT season.
Currently ranked eighth on the Order of Merit, he needs to make up ground in the Merit race by producing a solid result at the Taifong Open, which offers the highest prize purse on the Schedule this year.
“I’m ready for the second half of the season and we have a lot more tournaments to go. It is a very important time of the year. It is time to bring your best game and gain some points on the Order of Merit,” said Kaske.
Since it was inaugurated in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 21 tournaments in 2014. The ADT has announced a provisional 2015 schedule of a minimum 24 tournaments with several more to be announced in due course.
The ADT will continue to reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.