SINGAPORE - The sun was finally out and so were some of the SMBC Singapore Open's biggest names, who gave a ringing endorsement of the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course on Tuesday (Jan 16), the first day of practice.
Speaking at a press conference after his first round, straight-talking 41-year-old American Pat Perez called the Serapong "fantastic" and "perfect".
Said the world no. 16, who is in Singapore for the first time: " I heard from Jim Mackay, who was Phil's (Mickelson) caddie, that I was going to love it (the Serapong course) and I do actually love it. It's a driver's course, you've got to hit it straight... and I think it's awesome the fact you've got all the ships out there on the water, it's such an unbelievable layout."
The American won the CIMB Classic last October in Kuala Lumpur, his second PGA Tour win since returning from shoulder surgery in 2016, and is coming off a tied-fourth finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.
The US$1 million (S$1.3 million) Singapore Open runs from Thursday to Sunday.
Hitting the fairways will be the key on the par-71, 6,765m layout for South African Louis Oosthuizen. The 35-year-old and world No. 24 is returning to the Singapore Open after finishing runner-up to Matteo Manassero in 2012.
"I'm glad to be back and it's a golf course I really enjoy. From what I can remember, there are a few really key tee shots. If you're driving the golf ball well then you can really take the golf course on," said the 2010 British Open champion.
"It's the same old story - at the rough here, struggling to control your distance you might leave yourself with tough little trick shots around the green. I felt that I've always been a fairly good driver of the golf ball, and then from there you can either take some pins but you've got to be clever."
Leading the Asian charge is last year's Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Gavin Green, who will be joined by defending champion Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa.
Green had been tied second at the halfway point last year on seven-under 135 before stumbling out to an 11-over 82 in the third round. He eventually finished tied 59th on four-over 288.
"This course suits me pretty well, because I don't have to hit drivers off the tee all the time. (But) you've just gotta be smart on this course," said the 24-year-old Malaysian.
"It makes you think which is great and if you don't think and just play, you can get killed quick here. So you have to be really careful and respect the course."