Golf: Asia's charge features new faces and old heads

Jeev Milkha Singh of India, the last Asian to lift the Singapore Open trophy in 2008, believes the continent’s golfers are capable of winning anywhere around the world.
Jeev Milkha Singh of India, the last Asian to lift the Singapore Open trophy in 2008, believes the continent’s golfers are capable of winning anywhere around the world. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A mixture of youth and experience will spearhead the Asian challenge at this week's SMBC Singapore Open.

While all the pre-tournament attention has been focused on world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, the 22-year-old American faces stiff competition from some of the continent's top golfers at the US$1 million (S$1.44 million) tournament.

South Korean star An Byeong Hun, 24, is among the region's brightest prospects and the 2015 European Tour Rookie of the Year was not cowed by Spieth's reputation.

The pair had competed in the 2010 US Amateur at Chambers Bay with An advancing to the semi-finals and further than Spieth, who missed the matchplay cut.

"We've played a couple of times in the juniors and I'm looking forward to competing with Jordan," said An, who captured the prestigious BMW PGA Championship last May and is playing in Singapore for the first time.

"I've still got a lot of things to work on but I played well in my last couple of events and feel happy about my game."

  • Event details

  • When Thursday to Sunday.

    Where Sentosa Golf Club, Serapong Course.

    Prize money US$1 million (S$1.44 million).

    Who Headlined by world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, the Asian Tour and Japan Tour co-sanctioned event also features the likes of former Major champions Darren Clarke and Yang Yong Eun as well as 2015 European Tour Rookie of the Year An Byeong Hun.

    Tickets Free entry on Thursday. Friday ($20), weekend ($30) and season pass ($50) available through ticketing partner ApacTix. Price does not include entry to Sentosa or booking fees. Free entry for those under five and $5 for kids between five and 12.

    Getting there Shuttle buses run at 15-minute intervals from Harbourfront bus interchange from 6am to 7pm (Thursday & Friday) and 7am to 5pm (weekend).

The last three years may have been a struggle - 51 missed cuts from 96 starts - for India's Jeev Milkha Singh, the 2008 Singapore Open champion and last Asian to lift the massive trophy, but returning to the site of one of his biggest career triumphs has stirred him.

Said the world No. 876: "Asian golfers have a lot of talent and are capable of winning anywhere around the world. I feel there could be an Asian winner this week."

He was equally positive about last week's announcement by the Asian Tour that it would resume merger talks with the European Tour on the back of the appointment of a new eight-man board, featuring four players and chaired by Indonesian businessman Jimmy Masrin.

Said Jeev, 44: "I think the changes are good and things are looking up for the better.

"We have a new board in place and the people on the board have a good thought process and direction for the Asian Tour, and we will see what comes from it over time."

His fellow board member Mardan Mamat, 48, also backed the move: "People were saying the Asian Tour was not right but, in a positive way, we are trying to improve it as much as we can."

Boardroom politics aside, the veteran Singaporean, one of 11 locals in the 156-man field at the Sentosa Golf Club, was focused on affairs inside the ropes. Said the five-time Asian Tour winner: "Playing at home and winning can be a lot of pressure but I've done it before (2006 Singapore Masters) and hopefully I can do it again on Sunday."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Asia's charge features new faces and old heads'. Print Edition | Subscribe