Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand will be seeking to go one rung better when he challenges for the title again at the US$300,000 Sarawak Championship, which starts on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Jazz, arguably the hottest player on the Asian Tour this season, enjoyed a joint runner-up finish last year after closing with a superb eight-under-par 64 to finish one shot shy of the winner at the Damai Golf and Country Club.

He returns to the same venue this week, bidding for a fifth Asian Tour win and a third one this season to give himself a chance to automatically qualify for the International Team, led by Captain Ernie Els, for the Presidents Cup.

Jazz, who is currently placed 10th on the International Team standings, needs to move inside the top-eight on the rankings when the Sarawak championship concludes on Sunday. A victory at the Sarawak Championship will likely seal his move there along with an automatic spot for the match-play event which will be held in Melbourne at the end of the year.

Sitting in 56th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Jazz is the highest-ranked player in the field. He will headline the popular event alongside Australian Scott Hend, who trails him by over US$200,000 in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Hend is relishing his return to Malaysia for his first appearance in the Sarawak Championship. He had tasted success earlier in the country, having won his 10th Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship in March.

India’s Shiv Kapur, who will be moving his base to Dubai next week, is determined to turn the corner after making only two cuts in seven starts so far this season.

The full-field Asian Tour event, which celebrates its second edition this week, is supported by the Sarawak State government. It is also the Tour’s second stop in Malaysia this season.

Did you know?

  • Sitting in 56th position on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Jazz Janewattananond is the highest-ranked player in the 156-man field. He is also the highest-ranked Thai player in the world.
  • Jazz is leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit with a current haul of US$738,093, thanks to two victories and three top-five finishes.
  • Jazz came in joint runner-up at the Sarawak Championship last year after firing a birdie and an eagle in his closing three holes for a solid eight-under-par 64. Ended his campaign one shot shy of winner John Catlin of the United States.
  • Jazz broke into top-100 on the OWGR after winning his third Asian Tour title in Singapore in January and marked his career-best ranking when he rose to 52nd position following his fourth victory in Korea in June.
  • Jazz’s T14 finish at the 2019 PGA Championship, which was his second Major start, was the best-ever result by a Thai player in that Major tournament.
  • Prior to his victory in Korea, Jazz also notched back-to-back top-five finishes on the Japan Golf Tour.
  • Arguably the hottest player on the Asian Tour this season, Jazz is bidding for another win this week as it could help him to automatically qualify for the International Team for the Presidents cup.
  • Scott Hend became the first Australian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2016. He is regarded as the most successful international player on the Asian Tour.
  • Hend is making his debut appearance in the Sarawak Championship and will be turning 46 years old on Thursday.
  • Hend trails Jazz by over US$200,000 in second place on the Order of Merit.
  • He claimed his 10th Asian Tour title in Malaysia in March and took home his career’s biggest prize purse of US$500,000 to become the second highest-earning player on the Asian Tour’s Career Money List.
  • Hend is one of the biggest hitters on Tour, having led the Driving Distance category in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
  • Hend, who claimed all his 10 victories in Asia, is the fourth player after Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant (18), Thongchai (13) and Prayad Marksaeng (10) to obtain 10 wins or more on the Asian Tour.
  • Shiv Kapur is making his first appearance in the Sarawak Championship this week.
  • Kapur, the Asian Tour rookie of the year in 2005, ended an 11-year title drought when he won the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei in 2017. He went on to win two more titles and became the only player to win three tournaments that season.
  • Kapur enjoyed four top-10 finishes in 2018, including a joint runner-up at the Royal Cup in Thailand.
  • He has made only two cuts in seven starts so far this season. He sits in 81st place on the Order of Merit.
  • Kapur, who hails from New Delhi, will be based in Dubai from next week.

Players’ quotes:

Jazz Janewattananond (Tha)

The course is looking good, better than last year. It’s going to be exciting. The greens are better but you still need a lot of luck on these greens. It’s hotter than last year though. We play a bit later this year. Just need to handle the heat this week as well.

I had a good break before coming here. I didn’t do much. Just stayed home in Hua Hin for about two to three weeks. It was good to be home, good to do nothing for awhile. I was really busy for the first part of the year. And it looks like I will be even busier in the second half.

It was good to take a break. I needed that. I got myself a puppy not long ago. It’s a Shiba Inu. I’m going to miss it a lot now that I’m travelling again. I have two dogs already so it’s nice to add one more to the family.

I feel good coming into this week especially with the way I finished last year. I will try and do the same again and see what happens. A lot of good players are here this week so we will see how it goes. It’s going to be fun.

You need to try and make putts here. A lot of guys can hit the greens so it’s important to putt well. I putted well last year but I have been changing putters every week now so we will see what happens (laughs).

Scott Hend (Aus)

I had good fun in Korea last week, celebrating one of my best friend Young Nam’s wedding and finally seeing him get married. It’s my first time here in Sarawak. I have only played one round of golf in the last four weeks so it was nice to see the range again this morning.

I am as refreshed as I can be because it’s quite hot here obviously. I haven’t been in this heat for awhile. I tried to work out during the break, drink some wine as well and then work out again (laughs).

I will just try and play golf this week and see what happens. I have no high expectations obviously. It would be good if I can drop some putts this week. I have a few events more to play in Asia. The WGC-HSBC Champions is a huge one for me definitely.

I plan to play the Panasonic Open Golf Championship in Japan and the Mercuries Taiwan Masters as well. Hopefully I can find some form and try to win again. Jazz is playing well but I am hoping to close the gap on him by playing well in these events.

It’s nice to be back in Malaysia after winning the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur earlier. Actually, it’s nice to be back in Asia. I love playing in Asia, anywhere in Asia is good.

Shiv Kapur (Ind)

It’s my first time here in Sarawak. It’s a very pretty place. The two nine holes are very different to each, the mountain 9 and the ocean 9. Putting will be key this week. The main challenges will be on the greens. It’s pretty difficult to read.

But tee to green, I think it’s quite a straightforward course. Seems like it’s a low scoring course based on the results last year. I think the other challenge will also be when the wind gets up in the afternoon. Basically, it’s going to be important to putt and chip well around these greens.

It’s been a long break for me before coming here, although I played a couple of events in Europe in the summer. I had probably like four to five weeks off. I’m in the midst of moving my base to Dubai with the family so we’re currently going through lots of changes.

I’m moving next week. A few reasons for the move actually, from the golf perspectives as well as my daughter as we plan to put her in school over there. A lot of factors but the timing was good. I had a little bit of off season to do all of that.

It’s just nice to get back to playing golf this week. Everyone is itching to play I believe. We have a great stretch of events coming up so it’s going to be great to get a good start this week. The game’s feeling good actually. Normally you feel rusty coming off such a long break but I felt like I got straight into tournament mode when I played the practice round yesterday.

The season’s been disappointing to be honest. 2017 was a big year for me obviously and I carried those expectations into 2018 but the start of the 2019 season has been pretty slow. The tournaments that I used to play well in ended up not doing very well.

I thought I found some early season form in Perth and New Zealand but I seemed to lose that magic a little after that. The break came at the right time. I managed to reset and refocus on the things that I used to do. I’m looking forward to play almost every week in the second half.

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