Wolmer Murillo will be hoping local knowledge and the memories of his incredible run of success on the MENA Tour’s Thailand swing last year will spur him on to more laurels when the MahaSamutr Masters tees off at Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Venezuelan star won the Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen by three shots and followed it up with a second-place finish in the MahaSamutr Masters a week later when the tour travelled to Thailand for the first time in 2016.
Murillo, who is attached to Banyan, will be keen to pick up from where he left off last year, but will have his work cut-out as a strong field, packed with 13 winners on the tour, assembles at the award-winning course where Daniel Owen will be seeking revenge of sorts after last week’s disappointing finish.
A final-round 82 at Ras Al Khaimah was just a temporary blip in an otherwise strong performance from the Englishman, who opened with back-to-back 66s, and he will be keen to put that meltdown behind him when he tees it up looking for his maiden title on the tour.
Sponsored by MahaSamutr Country Club Hua Hin and supported by Singha Water, the first event on the tour’s 2017 Thailand swing will see 139 players from 26 countries battle for top honours.
The tournament will have a distinct Thai flavour with a strong home contingent of 25 golfers joining the field, which is headlined by England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour.
Other notable contenders include Lee Corfield, Craig Hinton and Andrew Marshall, all multiple winners on the tour, cricketerturned-golfer Craig Kieswetter, who graduated from the tour’s qualifying school earlier this year, and rising teen-star Victoria TipAucha, who will become the first woman to play on the MENA Tour.
Fresh after competing in the prestigious Junior International at Sage Valley in South Carolina, where he finished a creditable tied 13th, 17-year-old Rayhan Thomas will be eager to win more than the amateur division, which has attracted as many as 16 players.
Having finished second at the Mountain Creek Open and third at MahaSamutr Masters last year, the top-ranked Indian prodigy knows a thing or two about playing conditions in Thailand.
“It feels good to return to golf courses where you have enjoyed some good finishes. I have been working very hard with my coach Justin Parsons and the good thing is that I am feeling confident about my game,” said the Dubai-based star, who is backed by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation.
The UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh will spearhead the challenge in the MENA Division, confident of racking up some good results, and he said: “I am working on certain aspects of my game and hope to get things dialed in sooner than later. It’s always a work in progress.”