It’s been a tough couple of years for the Asian Tour and it is with heavy hearts that the field will tee off Thursday at the Royal’s Cup in Thailand after former player and Tour Chairman Kyi Hla Han passed away early in the week.
Han was an iconic figure in Asian golf, first as a player for 25 years amassing 12 wins then as the first Asian Chairman of the organisation for a decade from 2006.
This week’s event is the second on the 2022 schedule but is a significant step down in purse and field strength from the recent Saudi International.
It was set to be played for the first time in 2020 but was cancelled when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
COURSE: The Grand Prix Golf Club, as the name suggests, is built around a car racing theme.
RIGHT: A recent winner at the TPS Victoria hosted by Geoff Ogilvy, Todd Sinnott is one to watch this week in Thailand. PHOTO: PGA Tour of Australasia.
The course owner, Dr Prachin Eamlumnow, is the Chairman of the Bangkok International Motor Show and is also credited with designing the course.
Located about two hours from Bangkok, Grand Prix Golf Course is in a region the Asian Tour has never before visited and which is best known for its proximity to the River Kwai.
Information about the course itself is difficult to come by but available photos and video suggest a well-conditioned, resort style facility which the professionals should find to their liking in terms of scoring.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The lack of tournament golf the past two years means even events with smaller purses are attracting better fields than might otherwise be expected and that’s true again this week.
Jazz Janewattananond and last season’s Order of Merit winner Joohyung Kim will be among the locals worth watching while a strong Australian contingent will also be on hand.
Led by former Order of Merit winner Scott Hend there will be 11 Australians in the field with recent TPS Victoria winner Todd Sinnott perhaps the most intriguing.
The 2017 Myanmar Open winner is playing on a medical extension caused by his well-documented back issues and will no doubt be keen to test himself against a stronger field than he faced at Rosebud Country Club.
Other Australians worth watching include Asian Tour regular Travis Smyth and Australian PGA runner-up Andrew Dodt.
Dodt has been a solid performer in Asia over the years and on recent results could be a threat this week.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Scott Hend, Travis Smyth, Andrew Dodt, Cory Crawford, Jake Higginbottom, Josh Younger, Daniel Fox, Will Heffernan, Scott Strange, Ben Eccles and Kevin Yuan.