2019 New Zealand Open

BANGKOK, Thailand: Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand hopes to make his maiden trip to New Zealand a memorable one when he tees up for the centennial New Zealand Open which starts on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Thai will spearhead a strong Asian Tour challenge which features compatriots Panuphol Pittayarat and Poom Saksansin, as well as India’s Shiv Kapur, Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines and Nicholas Fung of Malaysia, all winners on the region’s premier Tour.

Founded in 1907, the tournament is one of New Zealand’s leading sporting events with a long and prestigious history. It will be played for the 100th time in 2019 at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown and offers a prize purse of NZ$1,250,000 (approx. US$850,000).

Defending champion Daniel Nisbet of Australia, Korea’s K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang, the first Asian to win a Major championship, are also set to headline the long-running event that is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

Like Jazz, Tabuena and Fung are also making their debut appearances at the New Zealand Open this week. The pair, who share the same room this week, are relishing their first trips to Queenstown.

Apart from taking in the scenic views that Queenstown has to offer, Tabuena and Fung are also planning to include jet rides and bungee jumps in their itineraries this week.

A total of 152 professionals from 17 countries will play the first two rounds alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the second round cut of top 60 and ties.

The final two rounds will be played at The Hills and the New Zealand Open Champion will be the leading player after 72 holes of stroke play.

The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.

Some of the Pro-Am celebrities to look out for include Black Caps legend Stephen Fleming, former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, Tom Walsh, the world indoor and outdoor champion shot putter and newly-crowned New Zealand Sportsman of The Year, as well as Hayden Paddon, a former World Rally Championship driver.

Did you know?

– Jazz Janewattananond, who leads the latest Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, is making his debut appearance at the storied New Zealand Open this week.

– The rising star from Thailand is eyeing a good showing to boost his rankings on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), where he sits in a current 78th place. He needs to break into top-64 by March 18 to qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

– Jazz broke into the world’s top-100 for the first time in his career after claiming his third Asian Tour title at the season-opening SMBC Singapore Open last month. That victory also earned him a coveted spot in The Open, where he made his Major debut last year.

– He followed up that victory with a tied-13th place finish at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, where he made it into the Sunday match play for the first time in three attempts and came close to knocking out eventual winner Ryan Fox in the second round of the match play.

– In his last 10 starts, Jazz has collected six top-10s, including a second-place finish at the 2018 BNI Indonesian Masters and a third-place result at the 2018 Queen’s Cup Hosted by Jaidee Foundation.

– Miguel Tabuena, 24, ended a three-year title drought when he won his second Asian Tour title at the Queen’s Cup in Thailand last November.

– Two weeks ago in Perth, Tabuena matched the Asian Tour’s record for the lowest nine-hole score in relation to par when he opened his campaign with seven straight birdies and added another birdie on the 18th to turn in 28.

– Nicholas Fung, 28, claimed his first victory at the 2017 Queen’s Cup and dedicated that victory to his father on Father’s Day last year.

– Fung had a season to remember in 2013 when he won the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit thanks to one victory and three runner-up finishes. He rose more than 1000 spots in the world rankings to 239th at the end of the 2013 season.