Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand will be seeking to go one rung better when he challenges for the title again at the US$300,000 Sarawak Championship, which starts on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Jazz, arguably the hottest player on the Asian Tour this season, enjoyed a joint runner-up finish last year after closing with a superb eight-under-par 64 to finish one shot shy of the winner at the Damai Golf and Country Club.
“I had a good break before coming here,” Janewattananond said. “I didn’t do much. Just stayed home in Hua Hin for about two to three weeks. It was good to be home, good to do nothing for a while. I was really busy for the first part of the year. And it looks like I will be even busier in the second half.”
He returns to the same venue this week, bidding for a fifth Asian Tour win and a third this season to give himself a chance to automatically qualify for the International team, led by Captain Ernie Els, for the Presidents Cup.
Jazz, who is currently placed 10th on the International Team standings, needs to move inside the top-eight of the rankings when the Sarawak championship concludes on Sunday. A victory will likely seal his move there along with an automatic spot for the match-play event which will be held in Melbourne at the end of the year.
Sitting in 56th place on the Official World Golf Ranking, Jazz is the highest-ranked player in the field. He will headline the event alongside Queenslander Scott Hend, who trails him by over US$200,000 in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
“Hopefully I can find some form and try to win again,” Hend said. “Jazz is playing well but I am hoping to close the gap on him by playing well in these events.”
Hend is relishing his return to Malaysia for his first appearance in the Sarawak Championship. He has tasted success earlier in the country, having won his 10th Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship in March.
“It’s nice to be back in Malaysia after winning the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur earlier,” Hend said. “Actually, it’s nice to be back in Asia. I love playing in Asia, anywhere in Asia is good.”
India’s Shiv Kapur, who will be moving his base to Dubai next week, is determined to turn the corner after making only two cuts in seven starts so far this season.
“The season’s been disappointing to be honest,” Kapur said. “2017 was a big year for me obviously and I carried those expectations into 2018 but the start of the 2019 season has been pretty slow. The tournaments that I used to play well in ended up not doing very well.
“I thought I found some early season form in Perth and New Zealand but I seemed to lose that magic a little after that. The break came at the right time. I managed to reset and refocus on the things that I used to do. I’m looking forward to play almost every week in the second half.”
The full-field Asian Tour event, which celebrates its second edition this week, is supported by the Sarawak State government. It is also the Tour’s second stop in Malaysia this season.