Becoming SEA Games champion bolsters Leow's self-belief

Singapore's James Leow shooting 13-under 203 to win the SEA Games individual title by one shot in the Philippines last month. It was Singapore's first gold medal in the event for 30 years. PHOTO: SNOC
Singapore's James Leow shooting 13-under 203 to win the SEA Games individual title by one shot in the Philippines last month. It was Singapore's first gold medal in the event for 30 years. PHOTO: SNOC

James Leow is now swinging with more confidence after his historic win at last month's SEA Games, but the Singaporean's priority this week is to make the cut.

He carded a three-over 73 yesterday in the Hong Kong Open, which was rescheduled from last month because of the ongoing protests. He was tied-81st, eight shots off leaders Wade Ormsby of Australia and Japan's Tomoharu Otsuki.

Next week, he will compete in the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course.

"I have no expectations," said the Arizona State University undergraduate. "The priority is to make the cut, of course. I am really excited to be playing in these two big events."

In the Philippines on Dec 6, the 22-year-old won Singapore's second SEA Games individual golf title since Samson Gimson's triumph in Kuala Lumpur 30 years ago.

On tackling his third Singapore Open, Leow said: "The one that stands out the most was having to be really smart and disciplined about my target line for shots and course strategy for the tucked pins.

"With the big greens and pins tucked in the corner, lag putting is key to pars or even birdies. The less mistakes I make, the better."

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    James Leow has an uphill task to make the cut after opening with a three-over 73 in the Hong Kong Open.

Among those confirmed for the Open are defending champion Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics top three - Justin Rose of England, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and American Matt Kuchar.

Ryo Ishikawa will be here for a third year on the back of a three-win Japan Tour last season. He is joined by another crowd favourite, the South Korean Choi Ho-sung, the social media sensation with his "fisherman swing" who was joint-12th last year.

Leow will return to the United States after the tournaments.

He plans to compete in amateur events like the British and European Amateurs and the Bonallack Trophy, a team tournament modelled after the Ryder Cup.

He is still undecided about turning professional but the SEA Games triumph has changed his mindset. He said: "I was unsure if the game I've been working on was good enough to play anywhere.

"The win reaffirms that I'm on the right track. My strengths are becoming better and my weaknesses are becoming my strengths too, especially consistency with ball striking (spin and flight control) and overall self-belief."


HONG KONG OPEN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Becoming SEA Games champion bolsters Leow's self-belief'. Print Edition | Subscribe