Australian Travis Smyth defends his Yeangder TPC title this week without a win since tasting victory here last year, at Linkou International Golf & Country Club, but still enjoying the warm glow of what was his maiden victory on the Asian Tour.
The 28-year-old from Sydney has been in resplendent form this year, with a best finish of third in the World City Championship, in Hong Kong – for one of six top 20s. In addition, he has not missed a cut in nine starts.
“It was a great boost to my confidence,” he said of his win last year, which saw him beat defending champion Lee Chieh-po from Chinese-Taipei, by two shots.
“I have continued to play solidly, since the win. It did me a world of good. I have had a solid season; got off to good start in Saudi; I have played solid in The International Series; I played my first Major this year, thanks to the Hong Kong event; had a bunch of top 10s and a lot of solid play. I am happy with where the game is at.”
That Major was The Open in July – which he qualified for via his strong finish in Hong Kong – and although he failed to make it through to the weekend, he made headlines worldwide by making a hole-in-one on the new par-three 17th at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which was the first-ever ace there.
It was another memorable moment in the early days in the career of a young golfer who hopes to go far in the game.
He said: “I definitely want to win again but I am just focused on getting better, keeping doing the things I am doing, working hard on all aspects of my game, off the course as well. Hopefully, if I keep doing what I am doing, I will get more and more consistent, and contend for titles more often on Sunday.”
He played near perfect golf to win here last year, firing successive six-under-par 66s over the weekend to finish on 19-under.
The Australian had started the final day with a one-shot lead and proved uncatchable after he birdied four out of the first six to make the turn in four under before virtually wrapping things up by making three birdies in a row from the 10th.
With a healthy lead, a surprise double-bogey on the 15th, which were his only dropped shots of the day, was not too damaging, particularly as he responded with his final birdie of the day on the next.
The victory, which saw him become the first Australian to win the event, made up for narrowly failing to win the International Series England in June where he was second – a result that earned him starts on the LIV Golf Invitational series.
“All the memories of the win have come flooding back this week,” said Smyth.
“I played nine holes and remembered every shot I hit on the back nine in the final round last year. It’s really good to be back and have no lock down situation like last year. We are free to roam the city and go out to restaurants, so I am really looking forward to this week.
“It’s a really, really, tight course and you have to hit it really, really straight off the tee. The small greens mean you require a lot of precision with your approach shots. Putting was quite difficult. The greens are a little bit slower than what we are used to week in, week out. But the course is in great condition this year, everyone is in for a treat.”
Lee, who won the event in 2021 when it was part of the Chinese-Taipei domestic circuit and not the Asian Tour because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, is looking go one better this year.
He said: “I am very happy to be back playing the Yeangder TPC. Came very close to winning last year. I’m excited to give it another go this week. I’ve been playing well this year. Had a couple of good finishes as well so I’m ready to give my best again this week. The aim is to do better than I did last year.”