Rising Thai star Jazz Janewattananond will be hoping to hit all the right notes when he tees it up at the PGA Tour’s DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth in Texas from May 25 to 28.
Jazz has been handed a special invitation to compete in the celebrated PGA Tour event by the Pace Development Corporation, the owner of gourmet food and beverage brand ‘DEAN & DELUCA’ and title sponsor of the $6.7 million tournament, following his impressive victory in the MENA Tour’s MahaSamutr Masters at Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand, earlier this month.
Jazz flashed a glimpse of his burgeoning talent when he held off a spirited challenge from fellow Thai professional Varanyu Rattanaphaibulkij to take the honours in a playoff in a first for a Thai player on the MENA Tour.
The 21-year-old prodigy, who will be the first-ever Thai professional to play in the PGA Tour’s longest-running event, will join a star-studded cast at Colonial, headlined by defending champion Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Masters and Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Matt Kuchar among other top draws.
“It is a great honour and opportunity to represent Thailand at such a world-class professional tournament,” said Jazz, who turned professional in 2010 and became the youngest ever player to make the halfway cut on the 2010 Asian Tour, aged just 14 years and 71 days.
“My sincere thanks to PACE Development Corporation and DEAN & DELUCA for offering me such a valuable spot. I will try and do my best. The experience of playing alongside world-class player will certainly come handy for the future.
Sorapoj Techakraisri, Chief Executive Officer, PACE Development Corporation, said: “As a Thai entrepreneur, PACE continuously sees the importance of showcasing Thai potential and talent on the world stage in many aspects.
“Apart from operating business in Thailand and internationally, PACE continually supports local golf development. This will mark the second year as title sponsor of DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, which is one of the world’s most famous and longest-running professional golf tournaments.
“We are pleased to offer this great opportunity to a young passionate Thai professional like Jazz. As the first-ever Thai professional golfer to attend this tournament, Jazz will be able to showcase his talent at a world class tournament on the PGA Tour, while competing alongside the world’s top players.
“We hope that Jazz will gain much experience from this tournament and we believe that he will be a good inspiration to the younger generation of Thai golfers.
In addition, PACE, under MahaSamutr Country Club Hua Hin, sponsored the ‘MahaSamutr Masters Pro-Am’ to select two lucky Country Club members to play alongside the PGA Tour stars at DEAN & DELUCA Invitational Pro-Am 2017.”
Resurgent Indian star Shiv Kapur reckons he is enjoying the ‘third innings’ of his life, and is determined to make the most of it in the coming years.
The 35-year-old Dubai-resident returned to the winner’s circle recently in stunning fashion, shooting an eight-under par 64 in the final round to triumph in the Asian Tour’s Yeangder Heritage on a demanding National Golf Country Club in Chinese Taipei a fortnight ago.
That ended nearly three years of frustration for Kapur, whose last victory came at the European Challenge Tour’s 2013 Grand Final at the now-closed Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai.
With his win in Dubai, Kapur rose to No142 in the world, and it looked like the 2002 Busan Asian Games individual gold medalist was ready to fulfill the promise he showed early in his career. After all, he was a standout star for Purdue University in NCAA in his college days, and quickly followed up his Asiad win by almost qualifying for the 2004 US Open as a 21-year-old amateur (he spent the whole opening round at Shinnecock Hills as the first alternate, but nobody in the field pulled out at the last minute).
And within a year of turning professional, he won the 2005 Volvo Masters of Asia, the elite season-ending championship.
Kapur plied his trade on the European Tour for several years before losing his playing privilege there in 2016. And after getting married to Maya in April, faced a potentially life-threatening situation in August.
While in Bulgaria, Kapur developed high fever that refused to subside. He pulled out of European Tour event the week after and was being treated for viral fever. But when six days later he still had high temperature, he decided to somehow make the journey back to India.
It was there that he got the shocking news. There was a tennis ball-size abscess in his liver that needed urgent surgical removal. Kapur was clearly lucky as a few more days and it could have spread to his stomach and developed into septicaemia.
“It was scary all right. I was very lucky I decided to go back to India. Because, in Bulgaria, I was given antibiotics, which was very dangerous for my liver at that stage,” said Kapur as he prepared to participate in this week’s Thailand Open.
“I was in the hospital for a week as the doctors wanted the abscess to reduce in size. After the surgery, they told me to rest for two months. And that was where I made a mistake. I guessed that if I could walk, I could also play golf. I started playing in 10 days and I remember playing my first practice round in Korea, I was so weak and so much in pain, I could barely walk back to the hotel.
“Because I wasn’t strong, my distances with the clubs were all wrong. I started getting into bad habits with my swing – basically my body was trying to protect the injured part. It all deteriorated pretty quickly.
“I am extremely competitive and I just can’t stay in the bed. And I am very passionate about my golf. During my stay in the hospital, I was getting restless, which prompted the decision to come back so soon. Of course, in hindsight, I should not have done that.”
As Kapur puts it, it was the third lease of life he got. In 2003, while studying in America, he suddenly felt one side of his face going numb. Within days, his right side was paralysed. It was diagnosed as Bell’s Palsy, a viral infection, but he also developed a lump in his throat, which could have been cancerous.
“That was even more scary as I was all alone in the US. I did not tell my parents because they would get worried. The only person I informed was my sister. For three weeks I would drive to the hospital and get checks done. Thankfully, it all cleared up, and believe me, I was so relieved, I played the best golf of my life in college after that,” recalls Kapur, who studied business management and finance in Purdue.
“You know, after incidents like these, you start appreciating more what you have got. Health is the most important thing in your life, golf isn’t.
“But as much as you understand that, when you go out on the golf course and do not perform, frustration still sets in. Things have changed in my life. I am married now and I have to think of Maya. We golfers can lead a very self-centred life, but now I have someone else to take care of. There is more balance in my life, and it is going to change some more when we have our first child (due mid-August).”
Kapur worked hard on his game towards the later end of 2016, but wasn’t getting the desired results. Three weeks ago, he played very good golf in the Panasonic Open in Japan, and still missed the cut by one shot. He was left heart-broken.
“I was very upset after that. I traveled to Taiwan thinking I’d play that week in the Yeangder Heritage, and then take a call for the rest of the year. I love my golf, but I also have a knack for business. I was seriously contemplating if I should give up golf and think more on the business front.
“But this game of ours is really funny. It would be wrong to say I lowered my expectations in Taiwan. In fact, I honestly went there with zero expectations. And suddenly, I win the tournament. It has changed everything now.”
There is now a perceptible spring in his step, something that comes naturally with the confidence of a recent win. Kapur is now looking forward to the future with renewed vigour.
“Obviously, winning helps and hopefully this is the start of a great run for me. I want to represent India in the 2020 Olympics. That is the dream goal for me. But I do not want to set other goals. I’d like to get back into the European Tour, and I’d love to play on the PGA Tour. But I will take things as they come,” he added.
“One thing I really want to do is play majors. I have felt the rush and adrenaline of doing well in majors…I have led the Open Championship and I have done well in the US Open. That is something that I want to experience again.”
South Korean Kim Si-Woo became the youngest winner in Players Championship history, firing a three-under par 69 on Sunday for a three-stroke US PGA Tour victory.
The 75th-ranked prodigy, who has played 120 professional tournaments worldwide, became only the second Asian winner of the event after South Korea’s K.J. Choi in 2011.
The 21-year-old Kim eclipsed the Players age mark set by Adam Scott when the Australian won at age 23 in 2004 at the famed TPC Sawgrass layout in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“I still can’t believe I’m the champion and I’m the youngest champion for this major tournament,” Kim said through a translator. I’m looking forward to working hard from now on.”
Resolute and cool under pressure, Kim used a bogey-free final round to collect his biggest victory by finishing 72 holes on 10-under 278.
Kim, ranked 75th in the world, became only the second non-US player to win twice on the US PGA Tour before age 22, joining last month’s Masters winner, Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Britain’s Ian Poulter and South African Louis Oosthuizen shared second on 281, Poulter after a closing 71 with “Oosty” firing a 73. American Kyle Stanley and Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain shared fourth on 282.
Kim, the US PGA’s youngest player, won his first tour title last August at Greensboro, but hadn’t managed a top-20 US PGA finish since last October and was in only his second Players, having shared 23rd in 2016.
“Usually I’m very nervous but last year I won one and I got a two-year extension,” Kim said. “So I can hit aggressively and I wasn’t as nervous.”
Now Kim has a five-year spot on the tour and assured spots into many of golf’s top events.
Stanley and countryman J.B. Holmes, who closed with an 84, were 54-hole co-leaders, but Holmes had bogeys on three of the first five holes and Stanley on two of the first four to stumble back.
Oosthuizen sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 second to reach nine-under but found water at the fourth and made double bogey to fall back.
That left Poulter and Kim atop the leaderboard at eight-under, Poulter after a tap-in birdie at the second and five-foot birdie putt at the sixth and Kim after a 17-foot birdie on the opening hole.
Kim sank a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-4 seventh to seize the lead and sank an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-5 ninth to reach 10-under for a two-stroke advantage.
Then Kim parred his way through the back nine, his last putts no longer than four feet on any hole as he calmly ignored winds and tension to prevail.