SMBC Singapore Open 2020

Quek feeds off momentum

Top Singapore golfer Quincy Quek practising at the Sentosa Golf Club yesterday. The world No. 496 leads 13 local golfers at the Singapore Open this week, the most the Republic has had in the event in 15 years. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Top Singapore golfer Quincy Quek practising at the Sentosa Golf Club yesterday. The world No. 496 leads 13 local golfers at the Singapore Open this week, the most the Republic has had in the event in 15 years. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Top S'porean in large group of 13 banks on breakout year and home knowledge

John Daly, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel are just some examples of how when things fall in place over four days, even the unlikeliest of candidates can go on to win a big tournament.

No local has won the Singapore Open since the tournament was established in 1961, but 13 Singaporeans, the most since the move to Sentosa Golf Club in 2005, will try to upset the odds this week.

Among them are Quincy Quek, the Republic's highest-ranked player at No. 496, five-time Asian Tour winner Mardan Mamat and newly crowned SEA Games champion James Leow.

Quek broke a six-year drought to lift two titles at the PGM Northport ADT Championship and Haikou Classic last year, and hopes to carry that form to the Serapong Course.

The 32-year-old, whose best finish at the Singapore Open was joint-26th in 2017, said yesterday: "In the past, I gave myself chances to hit a good score but didn't convert as many crucial putts as I would have liked.

"But when you are winning, the momentum feeds off itself. You see things in a more positive light and you are more confident of going for lower scores.

"It is great that there are these many spots for local golfers because it is not often we get to play with some of these top-class players and get the chance to earn some experience and coverage."

The record number of Singaporeans was due to a variety of factors.

Besides the usual six places allocated to the Singapore Professional Golfers' Association and three amateurs spots for the Singapore Golf Association, Choo Tze Huang and Joshua Shou received sponsor invites. Marc Ong and Jesse Yap got in through the Monday qualifier and Asean slot respectively.

Familiarity with the 7,398-yard Serapong Course will also help.

Quek said: "It looks like it'll be windy and the greens are firm, so it's important to keep the ball in play on the fairways and greens.

"The rough isn't so thick but it's still hard to control the ball from there, so having clean lie and clean contact would be an advantage."

All three 2016 Olympic medallists are in town for the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) event and Justin Rose, the champion in Rio de Janeiro, is hoping to start the year on a winning note.

The Briton, 39, who finished joint-ninth on his last visit here in 2011, said: "I got here earlier on Sunday... really work hard to try and get adjusted to the time zone.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

In the past, I gave myself chances to hit a good score but didn't convert as many crucial putts as I would have liked. But when you are winning, the momentum feeds off itself.

QUINCY QUEK, Singapore golfer, hoping to build on his two Asian Tour victories last year.

"I have played in Jakarta (he won the 2017 Indonesian Masters) for a couple of years, similar weather, so I don't think the heat is too much of an issue."

Fan favourite Ryo Ishikawa, 28, is coming off three wins on the Japan Tour last season and believes he has fully recovered from the back injury that interrupted his career in 2016. The Japanese star had strong starts in 2018 and 2019, either leading or near the top after 36 holes, but faded over the weekend.

He said: "This is a course I enjoy a lot, especially the 18th hole. It has got hazards on both sides, which is something we don't see much of in Japan, but it is makeable.

"Accuracy off the tee with the driver and three-wood would be key for this course."

He is paired with Rose and defending champion Jazz Janewattananond for the first two rounds.

Jazz, 24, who had four Asian Tour titles last year to clinch the Order of Merit, said last year's Singapore Open victory kick-started his breakthrough campaign. The 38th-ranked Thai added: "If you play well here, you can get the ball rolling for the year. There are a lot of learning points for this tournament."

SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN

Day 1: StarHub Ch204, 9am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Quek feeds off momentum'. Print Edition | Subscribe