It’s not only the names of Major championship winners and Ryder Cup heroes which have been inscribed on the magnificent silverware that is presented each year to the winner of the SMBC Singapore Open.
Since its inauguration in 1961, US Masters winners Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera and Sergio Garcia, along with Ryder Cup heavyweights Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar, are among the global stars who have savoured success in Singapore’s national Open, one of the most enduring and popular events on the Asian Tour calendar, writes Asian Tour contributing editor Spencer Robinson.
Sharing a place alongside them on the Singapore Open roll of honour is a legendary Asian trio of Asian golfing legends who will be teeing-it-up at Sentosa Golf Club this weeek in the season-ending event on the 2020-21 Asian Tour schedule.
For all the successes they achieved in marvellous careers, the legendary Asian trio of Myanmar’s Zaw Moe, Indians Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh rank victory in the Singapore Open among their proudest moments.
Now into their fourth decade of competing professionally, the appearance of the legendary Asian trio at Sentosa in 2022 will inevitably spark bouts of nostalgia, especially for Singh whose triumph in 2008 was secured on the award-winning Serapong Course that they will once more grace this week.
AUGUSTA, GA – APRIL 09: Tiger Woods walks with Jeev Milkha Singh of India up the first fairway during the first round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Singh’s dramatic one-stroke success remains among his most revered, repelling the challenges of another legendary group of Major champions – Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy – in a nail-biting denouement.
“The depth of the field that week was amazing with four guys in the top-10 in the world ranking playing. That win gave me a lot of confidence,” said Singh, in the wake of his sixth Asian Tour victory, worth US$792,500, raising his season’s tally to US$1.4 million.
Not only did Singh become the first player to surpass US$1 million in earnings in a single season on the Asian Tour, but also he went on to win a second Asian Tour Order of Merit title in three years. The following year he rose to a high of 28th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Starting the final round at Sentosa in 2008 five strokes off the pace, Singh charged up the leaderboard with an outward 33 and birdied the 11th hole to take control of the tournament. Bogeys on 13 and 16 set up a tense finish but his rivals failed to take advantage of his late blemishes.
Els and Harrington tipped their hats to Singh.
“It could have been a win for me. But Jeev is a great guy and I’m happy for him,” said South African Els.
Irishman Harrington, who won both the Open Championship and PGA Championship that year, echoed those sentiments. “I’m delighted for Jeev,” he said.
GURGAON-INDIA- Jyoti Randhawa of India pictured during the Pro-am event on Wednesday November 13, 2019 ahead of the USD$ 400.000 Panasonic India Open at the Classic Golf and Country Club, Gurgaon, India. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.
For Randhawa and Zaw, the venues for their triumphs were the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) and Jurong Country Club (JCC) respectively.
Over the SICC’s Island Course in 2000, the then 28-year-old Randhawa posted a four-day total of 20-under, three clear of second-placed South African Hendrik Buhrmann.
“I’d won three times previously on Tour but all of them were in India. So, it was good to finally win outside my country. My fellow players were telling me that I had to get the monkey off my back. I’m glad all doubts were finally put aside,” said Randhawa.
“Patience was the key,” added the Indian, who recovered brilliantly from an indifferent opening 72 with rounds of 64, 65 and a closing 67.
Zaw enjoyed a similar margin of victory in his 1997 success at the now-defunct JCC.
“Since 1995 I had been playing well but I couldn’t win, so when I arrived at the Singapore Open that year I felt I was due,” said Zaw, a long-time Singapore resident.
Four strokes clear at the top after three accomplished rounds in the 60s, Zaw signed off with a maturely-compiled 72, leaving him three ahead of American Fran Quinn, the runner-up.
A quarter of a century later, this legendary Asian trio still going strong.
It’s testament to their skill and longevity that these three former Singapore Open champions are plotting to play their part in the latest chapter in the history of this storied event that is about to be penned.
“Unfinished business” for Casey
England’s Paul Casey had planned to compete in the SMBC Singapore Open last year, eager to improve on his impressive joint second-place finish in 2019.
He’s a big fan of Sentosa Golf Club’s acclaimed Serapong Course but the pandemic meant the event, one of the region’s iconic National Opens, could not be played.
It was a missed opportunity for the region to see him play again that disappointed everyone but much to the delight of his many fans the Ryder Cup star and winner of 21 titles around the world is back for this year’s long-awaited tournament, which tees-off tomorrow, and he is very excited about it.
“It’s been difficult for pretty much everyone on the planet this last two years,” said the 44-year-old Arizona-based star.
“We planned on being here last year and then that got cancelled. But I’ve always loved playing international golf. And I’ve loved this golf course. It’s a difficult golf course but I think it suits my game very nicely. You know, not a lot of guys have made the journey over but this is what I’ve always done. So, I relish the challenge. There’s a lot to play for.”
His last event was in Dubai towards the end of last year and although he says he “probably lacks a little sharpness” he says his game is in good shape.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond beat him by two shots three years ago and he is determined to make amends for that this week.
“That’s why I’m here! Jazz beat me, it was a 65 or something in the final round and I thought there was unfinished business. There’s a lot of history to this event. It’s a fantastic trophy. I think this first year was 1961. Great list of champions. Adam Scott’s won here, what three times or something? Yeah, I’d love to win it. As I said unfinished business.”
He’s been put in the same group as Thailand’s 14-year-old wonderkid Ratchanon Chantananuwat for the first two rounds, which will make for a fascinating pairing.
It is just the start of what will be another big year for Casey, who is surprisingly still in search of his first Major and very conscious of how high the standard of the professional game is at the moment.
“You know in this game, it is transitioning, it seems, all the time. You know, these younger, faster guys are amazing. Like last week, we got to watch TK finish third! And the scoring in the States is bonkers. I know those golf courses in Hawaii,” he said.
“The game is just on a trajectory which is impressive and so my goals are to stay relevant really. I’ve got various things written down, including my victories. Yes, the Major always gets written down. I still feel I’ve got a great chance at Augusta National. I love the fact we’re going to St Andrews this year. I was third I think when Louis won in 2010. There’s a lot to play for.
“I think my thing is stay healthy. Stay fit. You know I felt I got probably a bit burnt out last year. Just a lot of stuff that went on last year, which was all good, Olympics and Ryder Cup and victory in Dubai early in the year but if I stay healthy, then there’s no lack of excitement and energy that I’ve got for the game.”
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