By The Nation
And if the golfing gods remain kind to him, the 23-year-old could see himself taking on the likes of 81-time PGA TOUR winner Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as well in Japan’s first official PGA TOUR tournament, the Zozo Championship.
Two wins and 10 other top-10s on the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour have earned the prodigious talent the opportunity to go head-to-head with stars from the PGA TOUR, and with ambitions to compete regularly on the world’s premier Tour, Jazz knows The CJ Cup and WGC-HSBC Champions offer him a great chance to assess his standing against the world’s best.
“I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks. Getting into two, maybe three, of the PGA TOUR’s biggest tournaments in Asia is a great opportunity to continue to test my game at the highest level,” said Jazz.
“All three tournaments will have really strong fields and I’m keen to play my best golf and see where it leads me. It’s been a really good year with the two wins on the Asian Tour and other top finishes both in Asia and Japan and I feel my game has continued to develop in the right direction.”
The young Thai has been one of the revelations this season with wins at the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where he beat a field which included Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey, and Kolon Korea Open in June. He has also been impressively consistent, achieving multiple top-10s on both the Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour, where he currently leads the money list race, and has also risen to 57th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
In May, Jazz came to global prominence at the PGA Championship where he entered the final round in T2 before closing with a 77 to settle for T14. Such impressive form helped the Thai finish two rungs outside the top-8 to qualify for the International Team to face the United States Team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia in December. He is hoping to keep his name in conversations when Captain Ernie Els names his four picks in early November to round up his 12-man squad.
“I’m not sure where I stand with the Presidents Cup as I know Captain Ernie will make his four picks after HSBC,” said Jazz, who finished top-5 for the second straight week in Japan on Sunday.
“All I hope to do is to continue playing some good golf, put in a few top finishes and hopefully be part of the conversation when Ernie and his assistants decide on the remaining players. Of course it’ll be a great honour to be picked but if I don’t, I’m still going to support the International Team to beat the U.S,” added Jazz, who is hoping to become the second Thai after Thongchai Jaidee to feature in the biennial team competition.
First up next week for Jazz is his debut appearance at The CJ CUP, which will be headlined by world No. 1 and defending champion Brooks Koepka. Being the reigning Korea Open champion, Jazz hopes to draw some new fan support as he attempts to maintain his rich vein of form in the Land of Morning Calm.
“It'll be fun to play in Korea at The CJ CUP as I won the Korean Open, so hopefully my new Korean fans will come out to support me in Jeju. And then I’m hoping to get into the Zozo Championship through the Japan Tour money list (he’s top-3 currently with the top-4 after this week qualifying for the new event) and it’s always an additional thrill when you have Tiger in the field.
“It’ll then be a nice way to finish the Asian Swing with my first ever appearance in the World Golf Championships at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. We’ll have the top golfers gathering from all the international tours and I’m looking forward to it.”
The three PGA TOUR tournaments in Asia this month offer nearly US$30 million in total prize money and feature 78-man fields with no halfway cut. With FedExCup points on offer as well, players like Jazz can gain points as a Non-Member to enhance his bid to earn playing rights on the PGA TOUR.