Golf: Thai Jazz Janewattananond ready to hit the right notes on return to Singapore

Jazz Janewattananond won the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open and was third in 2020. PHOTO: PAUL LAKATOS/ASIAN TOUR

SINGAPORE - It is a country that holds a special place in Jazz Janewattananond's heart and as the Thai golfer gears up for the Jan 13-16 Singapore International and the Jan 20-23 SMBC Singapore Open, he is eager to hit all the right notes on his return.

The 26-year-old won the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open and was third in 2020. The tournament was postponed last year due to the pandemic.

He had said previously that the 2019 victory was his career highlight and most important win as it allowed him to break into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.

Speaking ahead of the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) Singapore International, which will be held at the Tanah Merah Country Club, Jazz, a six-time winner on the Asian Tour said: "I'm just here to do my best, put in everything I have. I have a good track record in Singapore so I'm trying to keep that going."

No professional golf circuit has suffered as much as the Asian Tour through Covid-19. While the US-based PGA Tour and European Tour resumed in 2020, the Asian circuit restarted only at the end of November with back-to-back events in Phuket - a hiatus of 20 months.

After being away from Thailand for nearly two years, during which he competed mostly in Europe, Jazz made his way home for the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship and the Laguna Phuket Championship. He failed to make the cut for both.

But he is refreshed and will have his sights set on catching the Asian Tour's Order of Merit leader, Australian Wade Ormsby.

Ahead of the Tour's closing tournaments of its 2020-21 season, Jazz is 10th on the Order of Merit, US$ 137, 553 behind Ormsby.

He said: "First week of the year, I had a long break. I didn't touch the golf clubs for 20 days so I'm pretty much trying to get back on track, get back into the groove. Two years on the road, first time back at home which is really nice. I spent quality time with my family in Thailand which is amazing so I had a really good break. Kind of hit the reset button and I'm feeling really fresh.

"If you're on tour for so long and haven't been home, it just drains your mental ability to think. So I think in that aspect, I kind of let go of some stuff as well in Thailand, which is what I needed after playing so much on tour. With this pandemic going on, I think it's really great that I could finally spend some time at home."

When asked if his chances of catching Ormsby were realistic, the Thai replied: "Honestly I don't know. Just trying my best to get back in that groove. Work everything I can, practising, working in the gym, working with my mental coach. So I have to go into every aspect of it. It's going to be a bit different because the two years we've been playing under a pandemic, so your mind was not really in the right place. So trying to get back into that groove might be a different route. So we just have to search for it and find it."

Joining him at TMCC will be compatriot Phachara Khongwatmai, South Korean golfer Kim Joo-hyung, Malaysia's Gavin Green, and India's Shubhankar Sharma.

The Singapore International and the SMBC Singapore Open will be conducted in line with the prevailing safe management measures.

All foreign-based players, caddies, and officials will be subject to the current government regulations and requirements for travel to Singapore. All participants will also be required to undergo the necessary tests such as pre-departure Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, on-arrival PCR test, and daily Antigen Rapid Test (ART) for seven days.

Overall capacity restrictions across the event also mean that members of the media are also not allowed on site. Only invited corporate guests, who will be required to undergo pre-event testing, will attend the event.

A total of 23 golfers - eight amateurs and 15 pros - will be flying the flag for Singapore. They include the Republic's most celebrated golfer Mardan Mamat, Gregory Foo, Abdul Hadi Uda Thith, Koh Dengshan, Jesse Yap and Choo Tze Huang.

Mardan, whose first event as a professional was at TMCC in 1994, said: "It's nice to see a good representation of Singaporean players in the field this week. It will be a good chance for them to gain experience playing against the region's top players on a tough golf course this week.

"Not very often we get to play back-to-back big events in Singapore. I hope we can do well these two weeks."

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