New Delhi - In-form Thai No 2 Jazz Janewattananond will have the Masters on his when he heads to the Indian Open next week.
The 23-year-old Thai has been riding on a rich vein of form, claiming his third Asian Tour title at the season-opener in Singapore in January and finishing inside the top-10 six times in his last nine starts on the Asian Tour. He is also currently shining in Malaysia.
Jazz will spearhead a strong Thai challenge, which also features Tour winners Poom Saksansin, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, Panuphol Pittayarat and veteran Prayad Marksaeng at the US$1.75 million event.
An elite 156-man field from 28 countries, consisting of more than 40 Tour winners and seven Order of Merit champions, will be vying for top honours at the prestigious event, which will once again be promoted by the Indian Golf Union, co-sanctioned by both the Asian and European Tours.
Jazz, who sits atop the current Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity standings, says he will be hoping it’s a case of third-time lucky at the Indian Open. He came in tied for 34th in his first attempt at the DLF Golf and Country Club in 2017 before missing the halfway cut on the same course last year.
“It’s a tough course, everyone knows that. It’s a beast, very narrow and tough, so I’ll be happy to even just make the cut this time,” said Jazz, whose best finish at the event came in 2016, when he finished in a tie for 15th on a different course.
Now ranked 78th in the world, Jazz stands an outside chance to qualify for The Masters next month. The talented Thai, who is currently playing in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia, needs to break into the world’s top-50 following the Indian Open.
Alternatively, he could potentially earn an invite to The Masters, just like reigning Order of Merit champion Shubhankar Sharma last year, should he perform well in Malaysia and India these two weeks.
Late yesterday he was doing everything he could to impress, standing at six under par midway through his second round, in a tie for second and just three shots off the lead.
“My game is a lot different coming into these two weeks so I can’t wait to try and conquer the DLF course this time around. I missed the cut last year but I’m still looking forward to a new challenge next week,” added Jazz.
Also relishing the challenge at the Indian showpiece is two-time Asian Tour winner Panuphol, who has been in a relatively consistent form so far this season.
“It is a huge event for me so I am really looking forward to next week. I have been pretty consistent this year, although I admit it hasn’t been my best golf. But I have put in the hard work and I am excited to take on big events like the Indian Open,” said the 26-year-old Panuphol.
Missing out on a top-10 finish last year after making a double-bogey on the 14th hole in the final round, Panuphol will seize his chance at redemption on the notorious par-four that has been ranked as the toughest hole in the tournament for the last two consecutive years.
“It is an interesting golf course, I would say it’s very challenging but fun to play as well. I would love to play well because it is a huge event. I made a double-bogey on hole 14 and bogeyed the 17th on the final day last year, if not I could have had a top-10 result so hopefully I will do better this time,” added Panuphol, who ended up in a tie for 16th last year.
A host of former winners of the event will also add to the strength of the field. They include Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman, China’s Liang Wen-Chong, Australia's David Gleeson and India’s SSP Chawrasia, Anirban Lahiri, and Arjun Atwal.