The inaugural Blue Canyon Phuket Championship marks the return of the Tour although no official schedule beyond this event, next week’s Laguna Phuket event and Saudi International in February next year have not been confirmed.
Regardless, this week’s comeback sparked a lot of excitement among local fans and a sense of relief among players keen to return to a real competition.
TITLE CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
CLASSES: The tournament may be new but the venue is familiar, the Blue Canyon Golf Club hosting some of the most memorable moments in Asian golf.
LAW: Scott Hend is a 10-time winner of the Asian Tour and traveled to Thailand before the circuit resumes this week. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin / Getty Images.
Tiger Woods’ 1998 appearance at the Johnnie Walker Classic – where he came back eight strokes behind on Sunday to beat Ernie Els in the play-off – remains legendary.
A plaque at the 13th hole celebrates Woods’ heroic shot to drive the green to a par 4 that cuts through a deep gorge, a shot many have tried to duplicate but few have succeeded.
“Rubbing” is the word most often used to describe the Blue Canyon course, a description particularly apt for its nine back holes.
Laid out on a former rubber plantation (new front) and an old tin mine (new rear), it is the latter that has dramatic characteristics.
The 13th mentioned above is one example, the 14th par-3 and it’s a little green island in the shape of an inverted “L”, another.
Once considered the undisputed best course in Thailand, Blue Canyon’s reputation has suffered in recent years with the opening of new courses and the deterioration of its own condition.
However, club president Praphant Asava-aree said the club had used the pandemic to undertake major course improvement work with all of the tees and fairways refurbished.
PRICE : 1,000,000 USD
PLAYERS TO WATCH: A decent peloton will be available in Thailand this week, with several Australians likely to be among the contenders.
Local star Jazz Janewattananond will be the favorite of many and as the reigning Order of Merit champion, that’s as it should be.
He is a six-time winner of the Asian Tour and was T4 when he last started in Dubai two weeks ago, which brings confidence and form to the week.
Blue Canyon has been a regular venue for tournaments in the past, including when Tiger Woods won on the course in 1998. PHOTO: Andrew Redington / Allsport.
A handful of international players will also expect to be in the frame, the current leader of the Order of Merit Wade ormsby among them.
Ormsby’s second victory at the Hong Kong Open came just three weeks before the Tour closed and although his form in Europe was not excellent in 2021, this can probably be attributed to the challenges of international travel during Covid.
Playing closer to home and after a decent break from his last event at Wentworth in October, Ormsby will be refreshed and ready to play.
Americans John catlin and Trevor Simsby will expect to be at the end of the leaderboard business on Sunday, with Simsby the last player to win on the Tour in 2020.
Simsby won the Malaysian Open on March 8 last year and no tournament has been played since.
Catlin has been a regular on the Asian circuit since leaving the development circuit in 2017.
He is a four-time Tour winner, but since his last victory in Asia he has added three European Tour titles to his record.
A T9 finish at the European Tour grand final last week in Dubai suggests he’s playing well and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t in the count on Sunday.
COURSE FILE: 64 (Greg Norman, 1994 Johnnie Walker Classic)
FORMER AUSSIE WINNER: No Australian has won this event.
AUSTRALIANS ON THE GROUND: Sam Brazel, Cory Crawford, Ben Eccles, David Gleeson, Will Heffernan, Scott Hend, Jake Higginbottom, Andrew Martin, Wade Ormsby, Travis Smyth, Josh Younger and Kevin Yuan.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.)
2nd round: Friday (KAYO LIVE 5 p.m.)
Round 3: Saturday (KAYO LIVE 4 p.m.)
Round 4: Sunday (KAYO LIVE 4 p.m.)
* AEDT, consult local guides
© Golf Australia. All rights reserved.