Golf: Down in 2016 but not out

Mardan Mamat posing to promote the Panasonic Open India earlier this month. Seeing the 51-year-old Mukesh Kumar win the tournament in New Delhi has reignited the fire in Mardan, 49, to stay in contention for more titles next year.
Mardan Mamat posing to promote the Panasonic Open India earlier this month. Seeing the 51-year-old Mukesh Kumar win the tournament in New Delhi has reignited the fire in Mardan, 49, to stay in contention for more titles next year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Republic's top golfer is motivated to stay competitive, starting with the S'pore Open

The past year has been one of the most trying 12 months of his professional career yet Mardan Mamat has dismissed talk that his playing days are numbered.

Not only did the veteran Singapore golfer narrowly miss out on qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games in August, but he has struggled with his game for much of 2016.

A solitary top-10 finish - eighth at February's Perth International - coupled with nine missed cuts from 19 Asian Tour tournaments has seen him end the campaign 59th on the Order of Merit, his lowest-ever ranking.

In 13 seasons on the Asian Tour, he has collected more than US$2.18 million (S$3.15 million) in prize money though the US$81,771 (S$118,206) he pocketed this term was his second-lowest return after the US$70,856 he won in 2011.

Talk of any decline is greatly exaggerated though, the 49-year-old told The Straits Times yesterday.

"It was a bad year, no question about it. But I still finished in the top 60 so I need to take some positives and build from that," he said.

  • 9

  • Missed cuts from Mardan's 19 Asian Tour tournaments this season.

  • 59th

  • Order of Merit ranking, Mardan's worst-ever showing.

  • 72.23

  • Stroke average this season, Mardan's highest since 2010.

"I have to admit, there were points this year when I wanted to give up and retire. Things were not going well and I didn't know how to fix them.

"I was also trying too hard to qualify for the Olympics and that became a distraction and my scores suffered."

His 72.23 stroke average this campaign is his highest since 2010 and his putting average this year was 29.95, almost half a stroke worse (29.52) compared to the preceding year.

The lean spell has become a source of renewed motivation, starting on home soil at next month's SMBC Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club, noted the Republic's No. 1 golfer.

He added: "I'm using this off-season to work on a few technical things with my swing. The alignment of my stance has been a problem and that led to inconsistent ball-striking.

"Hopefully I'll be able to see the improvement at the Singapore Open. It's important to start the new season strong."

Part of his optimism stems from observing his rivals.

Earlier this month, Indian Mukesh Kumar captured the fog-hit Panasonic Open India for his maiden Asian Tour title, at the ripe old age of 51.

Mardan said: "I played with Mukesh for the first two rounds and it was a wake-up call watching him. If he can compete and win at his age, why can't I?"

Three of Mardan's five Asian Tour titles - the most recent was the 2015 Bangladesh Open - have been collected after his 44th birthday, offering proof that he remains a competitive force despite being in the twilight of his career.

The world No. 681 said: "I still love this game so much. My confidence took a knock but it makes me work harder.

"The goal for 2017 is to try and get myself into contention on Sundays to win another tournament or two. I'm not finished yet."

•Tickets for the Jan 19-22 Singapore Open start from $20 and can be purchased online at smbcsingaporeopen.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Down in 2016 but not out'. Print Edition | Subscribe