After a 20-month intermission, golf is back as the Asian Tour comes to Thailand in November. The best in the East will tee it up over consecutive weekends in Phuket at the Blue Canyon and Laguna Championships.
However, before we look ahead to what the Kingdom has in store, let us recap what has transpired so far.
Asian Tour Season Review
Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 Asian Tour season came to an abrupt halt in March. Fortunately for American Trevor Simsby, he had time to claim the Bandar Malaysia Open before the break.
Since only five tournaments went ahead last year, many had written 2020 off as a lost year. But, in October 2021, the Tour announced that the season would conclude with back-to-back tournaments on the tropical island of Phuket.
As it stands, Australian Wade Ormsby leads the Order of Merit (OOM) with $227,003.65 in earnings. Trevor Simsby, Brad Kennedy, Jarin Todd, and Jade Janewattanond round out the top five places.
2020/21 Asian Tour Winners
Jan 9 – 12 2020
Hong Kong Open
Jan 16 – 19 2020
SMBC Singapore Open
Feb 19 – 23 2020
2020 Asian Tour Q-School
Feb 27 – Mar 1 2020
New Zealand Open
Mar 5 – 7 2020
Bandar Malaysia Open
Phuket Series Tournaments
The warm people of Phuket are ready to welcome the Tour’s best players, as well as spectators from across the country and. There are worse ways to spend your time than watching two professional golf tournaments while relaxing in paradise.
The last time the Asian Tour journeyed to the island was back in 2019 for the Development Tour’s Singha Laguna Phuket Open. However, this time they added a stop at the world-famous Blue Canyon Country Club.
As it stands, the Phuket series will serve as the penultimate leg for the 2020/21 season, with two tournaments lined up for January in Singapore. That means that players have only four events left to climb the OOM.
Blue Canyon Phuket Championship
The Blue Canyon Phuket Championship restarts the Tour after 20-months of inactivity. 144-players will tee off on 25 November at the Canyon course that has hosted players such as Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, and Greg Norman.
The field will battle it out for a $1 million purse and a chance to increase their earnings for the season table heading into the Laguna Phuket Championship. Should Wade Ormsby win at Blue Canyon, it will be impossible to challenge him for the OOM.
Blue Canyon Country Club
Although Blue Canyon has hosted numerous international tournaments, its finest hour came in January 1998. That year. The Phuket course hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic, where a 23-year old Tiger Woods would defeat the easy swinging Ernie Els in a playoff.
The presence of tree-lined fairways, water hazards, and eighty bunkers makes it challenging to picture the tin mine which once occupied the space.
Praise must go to the acclaimed Japanese golf course architect, Yoshikazu Kato, for transforming the land into a world-class Championship layout.
Measuring 7,244 yards, this par 72 requires astute course management, as position is essential. Landing behind a tree could rule out an approach shot to the green, leaving golfers susceptible to a drop shot. Therefore those at the top of the leaderboard are likely to return a high FIR percentage.
The total yardage of the course is in line with the average on the PGA Tour. That means that the Pros can navigate the Canyon without requiring the distance of Bryson DeChambeau.
Blue Canyon’s Championship course features Zoysia Matrella fairways and Bermuda TifEagle greens.
The Zoysia Matrella grass is soft and best suited to players with shallow angles of attack and clean ball striking. Striking the ground before your ball on this grass leads to the loss of significant yardage on this course.
Finally, the Bermuda TifEagle greens offer superior speed and roll consistency, thanks to their fine-textured structure.
Laguna Phuket Championship
Capping off the Thailand leg of the Asian Tour is the Laguna Championship, 2021. The Grande Finale tees off at the Laguna golf course on 2 December 2021, with 144-players set to duel for the lion’s share of the $1 Million purse.
Like the Blue Canyon Championship, this is the inaugural Laguna Phuket Championship, and should we return to normality in 2022, it may never feature again. That offers players the potential of being a defending champion for life.
Laguna Phuket Country Club
Laguna typically plays as a 6,769-yard par 71 with the unique design of five par-3 holes to increase the challenge. For the Laguna Phuket Championship, the total par is reduced to 70, as the 7th hole becomes a par 4.
Although the links opened in 1993, they hired the services of Paul Jansen in 2014 to enhance the difficulty of the layout. Strategically placed water hazards and bunkers require accuracy off the tee and on approach. As a result, FIR, GIR and strokes gained putting are vital for success.
Like the Canyon Course, the tee boxes, fairways and rough are covered in Zoysia Matrella grass, while the greens feature TifEagle grass.
Notable Thai Golfers
Thailand golf’s heavy hitters are returning to base camp from various corners of the globe, looking to challenge for the two titles. Based on the current OOM standings Jazz Janewattanond and Gunn Charoenkul are the only likely Thai challengers to Ormsby.
After ending 2020 ranked within the top 100, Jazz will be disappointed that he has slipped down to 194th. However, he has bagged two top-ten finishes on the European Tour this season.
As the 2019 Asian Tour OOM winner, Jazz will have to produce two solid performances in Phuket to retain his crown.
Between 2019 and 2020, Charoenkul had a run where he returned six top twenties in as many appearances. This epic run of form earned him enough dough to secure 8th on the OOM.
However, after the postponement of the 2020 season, he ventured off to Japan to earn his keep. Unfortunately, it has not worked out for him, with several missed cuts and only two top tens.
He will relish the chance to play at home, where he has not finished outside of the top 15 in his last four outings.
Asian Tour Phuket Final Thoughts
As the Asian Tour comes to Thailand, life is slowly returning to normality across the continent. And, I cannot think of a better place for the Tour to resume than in the tropical paradise of Phuket.