SMBC Singapore Open 2017

Golf: Adam's the apple of Sentosa's eye

Adam Scott of Australia during the Pro–Am event on Jan 18, 2017, ahead of the Singapore Open golf tournament.
Adam Scott of Australia during the Pro–Am event on Jan 18, 2017, ahead of the Singapore Open golf tournament.PHOTO: AFP

Scott seeks record-extending fourth Open title at a course he feels a deep connection to

Evidence of the most successful golfer in Singapore Open history can be found everywhere at the Sentosa Golf Club.

There is a huge painting of him which hangs on the left wall upon entering the main lobby. Framed photographs of him posing with the trophy he has won a record three times line the corridors and changing room. A gold plaque bearing his name is affixed onto locker No. 56.

Adam Scott may be the 2013 Masters champion, but here at the SMBC Singapore Open, he is virtually royalty. The popular Australian is on everyone's lips - particularly his legion of female fans - as a leading contender at the US$1 million (S$1.42 million) tournament this week.

The world No. 7 is the highest-ranked player in the 156-man field. Next is Spanish star Sergio Garcia, eight spots below and making his debut at the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

Scott, 36, said yesterday: "I have a strong connection here to Singapore and Sentosa over the last 10 or 12 years. It's a tournament that I very much enjoy."

He had plenty of reasons to relish stepping back onto the Serapong course. His record since 2005 reads: first, first, third, missed cut, tied-third, first, tied-fifth. His 17-under 267 score from 2010 remains the tournament course record.

He noted: "I'm a much better golfer now than I was 12 years ago... a lot more comfortable and understand my game so much better.

"You come with that confidence in the back of your mind that you know you can do it, that you know the challenges of the golf course and you can overcome them."

At 6,765m, Serapong is "sneakily long", warned four-time Major winner Ernie Els, twice Singapore Open runner-up in 2006 and 2008.

"It's not the easiest place to make birdies sometimes because the greens are so huge and they've got great speed this week, so it's going to be quite difficult to get the ball closer to the hole," said the South African.

  • EVENT DETAILS

    ROUND 1 TEE TIMES (SELECTED)

    Hole 1

    7.40am: Lam Chih Bing (Sgp)

    12.40pm: Ernie Els (Rsa), Hiroyuki Fujita (Jpn), Mardan Mamat (Sgp)

    12.50pm: Adam Scott (Aus), Song Young Han (Kor), Yuta Ikeda (Jpn)

    Hole 10

    7.40am: Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Liang Wenchong (Chn)

    7.50am: Chan Shih-chang (Tpe), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind)

    8am: Sergio Garcia (Esp), Kim Kyung Tae (Kor), Miguel Tabuena (Phi)

    9am: Quincy Quek (Sgp)

    ENTRY

    Today/tomorrow: $20;

    Weekend: $30; Season pass: $60

    Kids: $5 (age 5-12), Free (Below 5). Available at apactix.com

With his blend of power and precision, Scott has the required tools. He won twice on the PGA Tour last year and was ranked first in tee-to-green statistics, 11th in driving distance (294.8 yards) and third in greens in regulations (70.76 per cent).

Expect more of the same from today, when a refreshed Scott tees off alongside defending champion Song Young Han of South Korea and Japan's Hiroyuki Fujita.

Scott has won 27 titles worldwide but wants more. He said: "Time is ticking and I want to win some more Majors. They don't come easy, so I've really got to take advantage of some of this good golf that I've been playing."

His rivals in Singapore have also been playing well. World No. 34 Yuta Ikeda of Japan, the highest-ranked Asian, won three times last term on the Japan Tour and clinched the 2016 Order of Merit. Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar collected two Asian Tour titles late last year and is eyeing a third in four months.

He said: "I finished last year in a very positive mode so I hope to get some momentum going this week."

Strolling around the Sentosa Golf Club is one way Scott draws inspiration. He said: "I come back and I have the same locker, and it feels nice... Those good vibes just come back and it all falls into place."

He stressed he was not a superstitious man but admitted he has carried and used the same pitchfork during his rounds for the past 17 years. "I don't know what will happen if I lose it," he laughed.

Even without that lucky charm, few would bet against him being in contention come Sunday.

SEE SPORT 

SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN

Day 1: StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, 9am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Adam the apple of Sentosa's eye'. Print Edition | Subscribe