Thai rising star Rattanon Wannasrichan will be shooting for a second straight Asian Tour victory on home soil when he tees up at the US$500,000 Queen’s Cup which starts on Thursday.
The 21-year-old secured his maiden Asian Tour title last month when he romped to a commanding start-to-finish win at the Thailand Open against the likes of reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend and 2013 Asian number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
With his confidence soaring sky high, Rattanon hopes a return to the holiday isle of Samui will lead him to another prestigious title. He will go head-to-head once again with title holder Hend and a stellar line-up which includes eight of the current top-10 players from the Order of Merit.
Second-ranked S.S.P Chawrasia of India, six-ranked Spaniard Carlos Pigem, Bangladeshi star Siddikur Rahman, who is a perennial contender in Samui, and another in-form Indian, Shiv Kapur are amongst those tipped to shine in the Queen’s Cup which is sponsored by Bangkok Airways and Sports Authority of Thailand.
After seeing hometown compatriot Chinnarat Phadungsil lift the inaugural Queen’s Cup back in 2009, Rattanon said winning on the Asian Tour soon became his dream which he achieved so convincingly at his national Open.
Straight-shooting Kapur, 34, will be amongst the top contenders as he surprisingly makes his debut in the Queen’s Cup. After ending a nearly 12 year wait for a second Asian Tour win at the Yeangder Heritage, he went on to finish runner-up behind Rattanon in the Thailand Open with a barnstorming final round of 63.
The 26-year-old Pigem is equally confident he can chase for a second Asian Tour title following a strong first half of the year where he posted three top-10s, including a runner-up finish in Myanmar. The dashing Spaniard also finished top-20 at the Queen’s Cup last year after missing the cut in his debut in 2015.
With three top-three finishes and two other tied eighth outings at Santiburi Samui, Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour, will be hoping his time will finally arrive for him to lift the Queen’s Cup this week.
Did you know?
- Rattanon finished top-five at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open and inaugural Yeangder Heritage in Taipei before securing his maiden Asian Tour victory at the Thailand Open last month.
- In five previous appearances in Santiburi Samui, Rattanon has missed the cut only once and finished tied 14th as his best in 2014.
- He represented Thailand as an amateur and won the Southeast Asian Games ‘double’ gold medal in the team and individual category in 2011.
- Rattanon is currently the joint leader in the putting category on Tour with an average of 1.7 putts per greens in regulation.
- Shiv has finished first and second in his last two starts on the Asian Tour. His win at the Yeangder Heritage was his second Tour triumph after a gap of nearly 12 years.
- Shiv has shot closing rounds of 64 and 63 in his last two tournaments. He will also be making his debut at the Queen’s Cup. He finished fourth at the Bangkok Airways Open in 2005 when it was held at Santiburi Samui.
- Siddikur has posted two top-10s this season, finishing second in his home Open and ninth at the Panasonic Open Japan.
- In seven previous appearances, Siddikur has finished top-10 on five occasions at the Queen’s Cup. He finished third in 2014 and 2015, eighth in 2013 and tied second in 2012. He pulled out last year with a back injury. His lowest round in Samui is a 64 shot in 2014.
- Pigem holds one Asian Tour victory with his success at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Taipei last season.
- He has finished second in Myanmar and fifth in India this year. Pigem also enjoyed a tied eighth outing at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco and was tied 28th last week at the Lyoness Open on the European Tour.
- After missing the cut in his Queen’s Cup debut in 2015, he finished tied 19th here last season.
Rattanon Wannasrichan (Tha)
I’m really feeling confident about my game and myself after winning the Thailand Open (last month). After that win, I played in an Asian Development Tour event in Phuket in the following week where I also played well (finished second).
I’m feeling very confident about this week. I enjoyed the week off last week but I worked hard at my game too. I know this course here, you’ll need to hit good irons and hybrid shots as it’s a tough and narrow course. When the wind blows, it’s tough so you need to know the wind directions well.
I’m no longer afraid of anyone after the win. I’m feeling confident. I just want to go out there to play my own game and not think about the other golfers. I’ve played well here in Samui previously. This course is narrow which fits my game. You’ve got to keep the ball on the fairway. If you do that, it’s not a problem. Hopefully, I will have a chance to win again on Sunday. Now, I’ll just focus on my game and take it one step at a time.
When I was a boy, I saw Chinnarat (Phadungsil) win the Queen’s Cup in 2009 and we’re from the same hometown in Chanthaburi. I was only 13 years old back then and I thought to myself that I would also like to win on the Asian Tour like Chinnarat which became my dream when I was a youngster.
Shiv Kapur (Ind)
It’s fantastic to be here in Samui. I’m back after a gap of 12 years where I played in the 2005 Bangkok Airways Open. Samui is such as a great destination that everyone looks forward to this week. I’m lucky there’s no event in Europe this week that I’m able to come back here.
It’s a tough golf course. You have to strategize off the tee especially when the wind blows. Most of the greens are also very undulating so you have to keep the high numbers off the card. It’s a golf course which gives you a lot of opportunities to make birdies but it’s also a course which you can make a big number if you do something silly.
I’m still trying to figure out how to play the first hole! Hopefully after I finish playing the pro-am tomorrow I’ll be able to figure my strategy. But in general, I like the golf course as you have to think your way around it. It’s not one of those where you just stand up there and hit a driver. I like it when you have to hit a two iron or three iron as it tests your mental skills.
I’ve won on courses where I’ve never played before. Obviously it’s an advantage if you know the golf course but at the end of the day, if you keep the ball in play and hole a few putts, that should be fine. Sometimes it helps not to play as you don’t know where the trouble is and you go out and play. I’m just glad to be back as I’m enjoying the week so far.
Siddikur Rahman (Ban)
I’m always excited to come back here. I’ve got good memories as I’ve played good golf here the past few years. I’m looking forward to this week. I’m always happy to be in Samui. The golf course suits my game. I love to play placing golf and it’s all about being in the right position which suits my style of play.
I think another win will come, it’s a matter of time. Whenever I’m here, my confidence is totally different. Maybe it’s because of my game or because I like this place so much. The food is good, the hotel is good and the people are really nice. It’s also a different type of golf course compared to the others that we normally play on. It’s good fun to be here.
Carlos Pigem (Esp)
Since I finished the tournament here last year, I have been looking forward to coming back to this beautiful island. Today, the feeling is even stronger. The prize money is up and I think it’ll be an interesting week. I’m feeling very excited about playing.
I like everything here. The golf course is good, the hotel is good and the environment is unbelievable and you get foot massages too! But the most important thing is to make birdies this week.
If you play on a course like this, with this weather, you just have to play well. My golf is feeling good. The last tournament in Asia was in India which I didn’t play good in the last round of the Indian Open. Let’s see if I can play good in four rounds here. It was a shame last week, I was tied fifth, three shots off the lead going into the last round but I didn’t play good on the last day and finished 28th. That’s golf. It’s going to happen more times and I have to keep learning. I have to wait for my moment.
The secret here is to hit it straight or straight! There’s no option. You have to focus 100% on the golf shot. You have to hit the fairway or reload off the tee. But I like it as I normally hit it very straight. This could be a great course for me.