When Pavit Tangkamolprasert lifted the Macao Open trophy back in October of 2016, it was the culmination of an emotional week for the Thai player for two reasons. Firstly, because it came during a week when a ceremony was held to mark the passing of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the age of 88, and secondly due to the fact it was his first victory on the Asian Tour.
“It was because of the King, I really wanted to win it for the King,” said Pavit, ahead of this week’s SJM Macao Open – which tees-off tomorrow and is making its return to the golfing calendar for the first time since 2017.
“That was my passion before the tournament started, and I think it gave me a lot of power and he helped me with everything. Like my putts, everything went in. I couldn’t believe it.”
He beat Asian Tour great, Indian Anirban Lahiri, after one of the most sensational finishes Macau has witnessed. He won on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off after shooting a brilliant seven-under-par 64, which helped him to counter an explosive finish by Lahiri that saw him birdie the last seven holes.
Armed with those inspiring memories he has been eagerly anticipating the start of what is the 20th edition of the Macao Open this week.
He says: “I’m really looking forward to this week, I really like the course. I mean it’s challenging, but after I won, we only played there for one year in 2017, and this is like six years. I have been looking forward to going back.”
The victory was also significant because it helped him finish 10th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit – meaning for the first time in eight years playing on the Tour he was able to finish in the top-60.
“Well, I was very surprised, because first I just wanted to keep my card,” adds the 34-year-old.
“Even before the last day, if I finished well, I would have managed to keep my card and I just wanted to get in the top-60. But the last day I shot seven-under-par and beat Anirban in the playoff, which was unexpected, it was just my week.”
Pavit had started the final round playing in the penultimate group, one shot behind the leader Lahiri.
The Thai got off to a hot start and was four under for his first seven holes, while Lahiri was two over through his first seven.
Pavit found himself in the lead going into the back nine, but his Indian opponent stormed back into contention by birdieing his way home from the 12th for a 65.
“Honestly, there was no leaderboard after 11, and at that point I was maybe three or four shots ahead. From the 11th until the 17th hole, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Pavit.
“I birdied 12 and 13 and I thought it was done, but when I walked on the 16th and I saw him doing a fist pump on 17, as he had made a birdie, and I looked at the walking scorer and I thought oh, he’s coming. I was like, it’s impossible for him to make six birdies straight in those conditions. But he did, and he almost made a chip for eagle on the last too, and I thought wow, that was good.”
Pavit had to birdie the par-five 18th to force the tournament into overtime and he made another four on the same hole to win on the first extra hole, after Lahiri found water with his second.
After a slow start to 2023 Pavit has managed to turn his game around and showed a marked improvement when he tied for fifth at the Mandiri Indonesia Open in early August and followed that up with top-10s in the International Series England and the Yeangder TPC in Chinese-Taipei.
“Yeah, after Indonesia I kind of found something, my rhythm. I have been doing alright for the past three weeks, played very solidly. With my driver I’ve hit more fairways, and my putting has been very good,” he said.
Just the right preparation as he looks to add to his two Asian Tour wins to date – he also claimed the Sabah Masters in 2019 – and his record seven titles on the Asian Development Tour.