Bali, Indonesia, October 10: The happy-go-lucky Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand will put the Order of Merit chase at the back of his mind when he steps up to the tee for the US$100,000 Combiphar Players Championship which starts on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Pannakorn took over the driver’s seat on the Merit rankings after winning his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title at the Taifong Open, richest event on the schedule this season, in Chinese Taipei in July.
He was, however, replaced at the top a month later by current leader Japanese Masaru Takahashi after the latter won the Ciputra Golfpreneur Tournament in Indonesia in August, notching four successive top-10s prior to his win.
Trailing by about US$2,169 in second place, Pannakorn needs a strong showing at the holiday isle of Bali to surpass Masaru on the money list and continue his chase to become only the second Thai player, following Pavit Tangkamolprasert in 2014, to win the accolade.
“The New Kuta Golf course is long and windy. It will be a good challenge for all of us this week. I played on the Asian Tour in Chinese Taipei last week but missed the cut unfortunately. My confidence dropped a little but I went home to work on my game before coming to Bali.
“I had my father to check on my game so all is looking good now. I feel good coming to Bali this week. I am sure all the other players are enjoying the beautiful sceneries out there too. I just want to enjoy myself on this course,” said Pannakorn.
Pannakorn came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2014 but failed to retain his playing rights for the following season. He has been plying his trade on the region’s secondary circuit for the last two years before finally breaking through in June.
“This week’s event is one of the biggest tournaments on the ADT schedule this season. It will definitely help me in my Merit chase if I can play well. But having said that, I just want to focus on my game and not give myself too much pressure with the Merit chase.
“The aim is to finish inside top-five on the final money list to earn my Asian Tour card for next year but I will try my best to win the Order of Merit as I am not too far off now. We will see how it goes,” Pannakorn added.
Pannakorn will feature in the tournament held at the New Kuta Golf in Bali alongside Masaru, last week’s winner Blake Snyder of the United States, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Wei-lun and countryman Nattawat Suvajanakorn, all placed inside top-five on the current Merit rankings.
One-time ADT winner George Gandranata will spearhead the local challenge alongside Danny Masrin and Ian Andrew at the Combiphar Players Championship, which is the Tour’s second stop in Indonesia this season.
The winner of the Combiphar Players Championship will take home a prize purse of US$17,500 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points while the top-six players and ties earn points based on a sliding scale.
The leading five players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn their Asian Tour cards for the 2018 season.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
About Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.