Guess who’s playing at the BNI Indonesian Masters?

Ernie Els. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

A galaxy of stars are playing in this week’s BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE, three-time winner Lee Westwood, Bernd Wiesberger, who has also won here, and Graeme McDowell, and Asian greats Anirban Lahiri, Jazz Janewattananond, both past champions, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

But one star player stands out more than any other, and in more ways one, here at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, the “Big Easy” himself Ernie Els.

Now 53 years old and a regular on the Champions Tour he is making a popular return to the region, where he has enjoyed great success, winning three times on the Asian Tour.

“I just want to have a nice week, if things work out nicely then I will be very thrilled and if it doesn’t I just want to have a nice week and enjoy myself,” said the South African.

“I obviously want to try and play well, feel like I am swinging it good, it’s really coming out beautiful, there is a bit of doubt here and there. I am just getting my club back on plane, I was a little inside, a little deep. It feels good when I make good contact.”

He finished second here in 2013, when Wiesberger won, and despite not playing much recently he feels his game is in good shape.

Ernie Els. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Added the four-time Major winner: “I have been playing really well, I played over on the Champions Tour, I had 13 top-10s out of 20 something events. I ran close a couple of times, but I never got a win. I really am looking forward to next year, the competition is strong out there.

“I haven’t played in a month, I have just been playing a bit of social golf, in South Africa. I am trying to find something, but it’s okay, I am just enjoying myself out here, with my friend Nico [Van Rensburg] on the bag, he played in Asia for a long time.”

In Van Rensburg he could not have a better man to help guide him as he played regularly on the Asian Tour in the 1990s, winning three times, and thrilling galleries with his eye-catching big-hitting game.

“Nico is great, we have known each other since childhood, so it’s nice to have him on the bag. He’s loving it because he is seeing some of his old mates,” said Els, who mentioned Van Rensburg works on his charitable projects, and “raises a hell of a lot of money and does a hell of a good job.”

Els’ last big win on a main Tour came at the 2013 BMW International Open in Europe, while his two wins on the Champions Tour came in 2020, but don’t be surprised if the big man with deft touch adds some more silverware to his bulging trophy cabinet this week, in what is the season-ending event on the Asian Tour and last of the year’s seven International Series contests.

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Hamamoto and Shietekat off to good starts with Six under-par 66s.

Schietekat and Hamamoto leads Indonesian Masters 2022 day | Pic Erlangga Tribuana

Thailand’s Kosuke Hamamoto and Neil Schietekat from South Africa both shot sizzling six-under-par 66s to take the clubhouse lead on the opening day of the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE today, which was cut short because of lightning.

Hamamoto playing well off the back of a second-placed finish in Bangladesh last Sunday toured the layout at Royale Jakarta Golf Club bogey free, with four birdies on the front and two on the back, while Schietekat, battling to keep his Tour card, carded seven birdies and one dropped shot.

India’s Veer Ahlawat returned a 67 while Korea’s Bongsub Kim, Pawin Ingkhaprait from Thailand, Canadian Richard T. Lee and Filipino Miguel Tabuena all came in with 68s.

Half the field were unable to complete their rounds as play was stopped for the day at 4.45pm local time.

Hamamoto lost by one shot to compatriot Danthai Boonma last week but rather than being disappointed about not being able to win his first Asian Tour event he has taken the positives from the experience and is philosophical about it.

He said: “I was okay about not winning last week, I have changed my mentality, golf is not everything in my life. Finishing second doesn’t define who I am. I am having the time of my life and living the dream.”

The rising star, whose father is Japanese and mother Thai, has made multiple changes to his game and mindset which has led to some fine form.

“Lately I have been working with a new coach, Kris Assawapimonporn, who also teaches Atthaya Thitikul, I have a new caddie and a new set of irons, and I have changed my mentality, so it’s been a lot of things and it seems to be working. I will just keep on focusing what I need to do.”

His new caddie is non-other than ‘Camp’, formerly Jazz Janewattananond’s bagman, who was on the bag when Jazz won here in 2019.

Hamamoto also revealed that only a few months ago life was proving difficult.

He said: “During the summer I had a really tough time, I think I have come out of it more mature. I just had stuff going on outside the course that effected my mentality, and I wasn’t having fun on the course. I didn’t feel like playing golf.”

Schietekat is 72nd on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and needs a good result this week to finish in the top-60 and retain his playing privileges.

“It’s been a disappointing year,” said the 38 year old from Johannesburg.

“I came out here having got my card, at the 2020 Q School, and wanted to do much better. I am getting used to Asia, which I love, but I need a good week to keep my card. It is what it is, I got off to a good start.

“I started off well today, made a lot of putts. I had 27 putts and missed two greens. Struggling with the driver a little bit, I think I cracked my favourite driver in Morocco, and when I was getting a fitting in Egypt the week after, they said the face is cracked. That was my baby, had it for two and a half years and I normally pride myself on my driving. So, I am fiddling with other drivers.”

Bad weather first stopped play at 2.20pm and resumed at 4.15pm, for half an hour.

South African Mathiam Keyser was five under with five to play, while Indian Anirban Lahiri, who won here in 2014, was four under after 10 holes.

Play will resume at 6.15am on Friday.

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