November 2019 – Asian Development Tour

Nirun pips Green in play-off to win his first ADT title in four years at the PGM Maybank ADT Championship

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 30: Thailand’s Nirun Sae-ueng ended a four-year title drought on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) after defeating local hotshot Gavin Green on the first extra hole at the PGM Maybank Championship on Saturday.

Nirun and Green both staged a remarkable comeback from six and eight shots back at the start of the day to end regulation play tied on 15-under-par 273 after posting final rounds of six-under-par 66 and 64 respectively at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.

While Green impressed with his flawless round that contained eight birdies to claim the clubhouse lead, it was Nirun who made heads turn when he eagled just when it mattered most, on the 18th, to overturn a two-shot deficit and force  extra-time.

The duo returned to the par-five 18th hole for the play-off battle where Nirun pipped Green with a par against a bogey to triumph at the US$54,000 event.

Thai overnight leader Atiruj Winaicharoenchai failed to convert his commanding four-shot advantage into victory after battling to a 74 to finish sole third on 275, while Amir Nazrin finished one shot further back after closing with a 71.

Nirun admitted that he was left in disbelief when he eagled the last hole.

“I knew it was going to be tough to overtake Gavin, who was two shots clear at the top. For the last hole, I was just trying to finish with a flourish by aiming for a birdie.

“I hit my shot to about 75 yards and tried to chip onto the green. I didn’t think it would go in!

“I didn’t notice it went in as the pin was behind the hill. I only realised I made the eagle when I heard the loud cheers and fellow players came to congratulate me as I approached the green.

“But the eagle on the 18th really set me up well for the extra hole. Gavin would have a great advantage as he’s capable of hitting it real far. I just focused on my game, put the ball on the fairway, and then the third shot to the green. 

“I two-putted for the win after Gavin failed in his chip-in attempt and missed the putt as well,” said Nirun, who pocketed US$9,529 to move from 51st to 19th on the Order of Merit.

Having collected US$14,842 from nine starts, Nirun has set his sights on claiming a big share of the season-ending US$160,000 Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei next month to make his last-ditch bid to crack into the top-seven.

“The victory has opened up the opportunity for me to try sneak into the top seven.. The Taifong Open is a big money event and I can still earn my Asian Tour card if I could finish top three there.

“Winning my first ADT title in four years has restored my confidence and ambition,” he said.

Maybank ambassador Green was meanwhile philosophical in his defeat.

“I’m disappointed in the playoff of course but I had a good final round. Putts went in and I hit it great to make 17 out 18 greens, I would say it’s still a solid week.

“I have been working really hard on some stuff with the swing and I’m liking the way I’m striking it. It’s a great preparations for the next year’s Maybank Championship, that’s for sure,” said Green.

Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan could only manage to finish tied 30th but it was good enough for him to keep himself at the top on US$50,278, giving him a US$21,000 cushion over second-placed Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand (US$29,794).

But with the Taifong Open offering a top prize worth US$28,000, as many as six contenders including seventh-placed Kosuke Hamamoto of Japan (US$22,449) can still topple Sekito to become the ADT number one.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 29: Atiruj Winaicharoenchai of Thailand is on the brink of securing his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory after firing a seven-under-par 65 on Friday to take a four-shot lead into the final round at the PGM Maybank ADT Championship.

Atiruj, nicknamed the Dragon, notched seven birdies in his bogey-free scorecard to reach the 54-hole mark at 15-under-par 201 at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.

Local star Amir impressed with a 68 to give himself another shot at chasing for a maiden ADT victory after coming close with a runner-up finish in Indonesia last year.

Thailand’s Sarit Suwannarit settled a further shot back in third following a 69 while compatriot Nirun Sae-ueng takes fourth place on 207.

Shinichi Mizuno of Japan, Suttijet Kooratanapisan of Thailand and Matt Killen of England, who shared the third-round lead with Atiruj, faded away after mustering matching 72s to trail by six shots in fifth position.

“I continued to hit it very well especially my approach shots. I managed to find the green 16 time today and all my seven birdies were within 15 feet,” said the 19-year-old Atiruj.

“If I keep playing the way I did today, I believe the victory is within my reach. My goal is to shoot a three-under and hopefully that will be good enough to earn me my breakthrough on the ADT.

“If I can do that, it will be such a good achievement considering I have just turned pro last year. This will stand me in good stead ahead of the Asian Tour Q-School next year where I hope to earn my card,” added the young Thai.

“If I can do that, it will be such a good achievement considering I have just turned pro last year. This will stand me in good stead ahead of the Asian Tour Q-School next year where I hope to earn my card,” added the young Thai.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 28: Thailand’s Suttijet Kooratanapisan shot a solid successive four-under-par 68 to claim a share of the second round clubhouse lead at the PGM Maybank ADT Championship with countryman Atiruj Winaicharoenchai, Shinichi Mizuno of Japan and Matt Killen of England on Thursday.

Suttijet, a one-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner, kept his hopes of winning his first title of the season alive when he traded seven birdies against three bogeys at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.

Joint first round leaders Mizuno, the defending champion and Atiruj both maintained their position atop the leaderboard following matching 70s to share the lead with Killen (68) on an eight-under-par 136 total.

Local hopeful Amir Nazrin (69) was among the three players tied in fourth-place, just one shot adrift. Maybank ambassador Gavin Green, too, gave the home fans something to cheer about as he bounced back with an improved 68 to move to three-way tie for ninth on 139.

The second round of the US$54,000 tournament, which is the second last stop of the 2019 ADT schedule, was halted at 5.34pm local time due to lightning threat. A total of 28 players will return to complete their second round at 7.30am on Friday.

Suttijet is hoping to translate his recent good form into a second victory on the ADT. His sole triumph was at the PGM Palm Resort Championship in 2016.

Prior to this week, Suttijet had performed well in his last two Asian Tour starts, finishing tied 23rd at the Panasonic Open India and tied 12th at the Sabah Masters.

“I love playing in Malaysia. It feels like playing back home, the grass and green is very similar to the golf courses in Thailand.

“It was also in Malaysia three years that I earned my breakthrough on the ADT. Hopefully I’ll be able to end my title drought here too,” said Suttijet.

Teeing off from the 10th hole, Suttijet made a modest start when he mixed three birdies with two bogeys to turn in 35.

He then stepped up his game, firing four birdies in the next eight holes before a closing bogey prevented him from securing an outright lead.

“I hit my approach shots very well today and gave myself lots of birdie chances which I converted. The course is narrow, hitting a good first shot is equally crucial too.

“The best birdie I had was at the hole 18. My third shot went past the green a little bit, but I made a good chip in there.

“As for the last hole, I didn’t hit it as straight as I wanted before the second shot landed in the bunker. I actually recovered well with my shot rolled quite close to the hole, but I missed the putt.

“But that’s no big deal. There’s still two days left,” he said.

The leading seven players on the ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2019 season.

Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points are offered for all ADT events. The winner will earn a total of six OWGR points while the top-six players and ties earn points on a sliding scale.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 27: Defending champion Shinichi Mizuno of Japan picked up where he left off last year, signing for an opening six-under-par 66 to grab a share of the clubhouse lead with Thai youngster Atiruj Winaicharoenchai at the weather-disrupted PGM Maybank ADT Championship on Wednesday.

The leading duo secured a one-shot advantage over Pakistan’s Hamza Amin, Choo Tze Huang of Singapore and Kwanchai Tannin of Thailand at the US$54,000 event, which is the penultimate leg of the 2019 Asian Development Tour (ADT) schedule this seaon.

Play at the Saujana Golf and Country Club was suspended at 5.15pm local time due to lightning threats before being abandoned for the day an hour later . A total of 38 players will resume their rounds at 7.30am local time on Thursday morning with the second round scheduled to commence at 7.30am as originally planned.

Amir Nazrin was the best local performer of the day following a 68, while Malaysia’s number one and Maybank ambassador Gavin Green is five shots off the pace after carding a 71.

Mizuno came out from the 10th tee with all guns blazing as he fired an eagle on the par-four 11th before gaining three more shots through birdies on the 13th, 17th and 18th to turn in 31.

He traded two more birdies against a lone bogey on his return journey.

“I was kind of nervous returning as the defending champion, but the early eagle on the 11th, my second hole, really got my round going.

“I hit the driver and for the second shot, it was about 145 yards and I hit a nine-iron. It just landed before the pin and went in on the second bounce.

“For the bogey (on the seventh), it was a tough situation. I hit the tee shot which was quite decent but it found a bunker. I kind of accepted that bogey and managed to bounce back with a birdie on the next hole, so it didn’t really affect me,” said Mizuno.

Mizuno is hoping to take advantage of the good start as he seeks to successfully defend a title for the first time in his career.

“It would be nice if I can do it (retaining a title). Even looking back to my junior days, I’ve won tournaments but I have never defended it.

“Obviously, there’s still many rounds left to be played but shooting a 66 is a nice way to start off the week. I intend to continue playing aggressive and keep the birdies coming,” added Mizuno.

Atiruj, 19, was the other player to steal the limelight on the opening day by notching seven birdies, including five in his last six holes.

His only blemish was a double bogey on par-four 14th.

“I have got a lot of confidence playing at Saujana, having captured the Saujana Amateur Championship back in 2016.

“My iron shot and putting made the difference today. Five of my birdies were inside 10 feet, one through chip-in and another from two putts on the par-five.

“I’m very pleased with my round. I’m looking to do well this week I’m preparing for the Asian Tour Q-School next year,” said Atiruj, who turned professional last year.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 26: Malaysian ace Gavin Green will lend his star credentials to the PGM Maybank ADT Championship when it gets underway at the Saujana Golf and Country Club on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old, who is the ASEAN ambassador of the Malaysian banking giants Maybank, will make his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) appearance in more than two years when he headlines the US$54,000 tournament, which is the penultimate stop of the season.

Green, who has been mainly competing on the European Tour this season, is thrilled to be playing again in the region’s secondary circuit where he had won three times, including being the first amateur winner following his victory in 2014.

Green secured his Asian Tour promotion by finishing second on the ADT Order of Merit in 2016 and his career has gone from strength to strength ever since.

He impressed right away in his debut season, bagging a title and three runner-up finishes to be crowned the 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.

“It will certainly bring back some good memories, the ADT was where it all started for me after I turned pro in 2015. I’m happy to be able to play this week.

“It’s a great circuit and very competitive too,” said Green, who has also signed up for next month’s Thailand Masters on the Asian Tour as he seeks to end the year on a high.

The world No. 243 Green is also eying the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points at stake in the tournament to boost his position whilst doing his part for Maybank.

“I will certainly not say no to the ranking points.

However, more importantly, this is the Maybank leg of the ADT and it’s a good opportunity for me as their ASEAN ambassador to play in this event.

“It will be nice to do well as this will definitely help in preparing for the Maybank Championship next year. I like this (Palm) course and I had a lot of good memories playing here,” said Green.

The local contingent also comprises of newly-wed Nicholas Fung and Ben Leong, both winners on the Asian Tour.

They will battle for the US$9,529 top prize with the likes of Japanese duo – current Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito and last year’s champion Shinichi Mizuno, as well as the other top performers of the season such as Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas, England’s Steve Lewton and American Trevor Simsby.

But all eyes will be on Sekito, who is hoping to edge closer to the Order of Merit victory with yet another strong result.

Sekito was playing catch up in second place to Korea’s Joohyung Kim before the latter’s made his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Panasonic Open India a fortnight ago. .

Kim, who won his third AT title this season in Pakistan last month to earn playing rights on the Asian Tour for the remainder of the season, secured a one-year winner’s exemption on the Asian Tour following his victory.

Having secured his Asian Tour card for 2020, the 17-year-old teen sensation will no longer feature on the ADT Order of Merit as he will not be eligible for any of the remaining ADT events this season.

Sekito, who amassed US$49,827 to date, leads by more than US$20,000 from second-placed Pannakorn (US$29,293).

“I didn’t expect to be back on top again! Fortunately my friend Kim earned Asian Tour breakthrough recently and this paved way for me to lead the money list once more, after losing it to Kim earlier on.

“I was so happy for Kim and he inspired me a lot. I’ve played with him in a lot of tournaments this year and the guy has already won on Asian Tour! I feel like I’m not too far from it too.

“But for now my goal is to win the OOM to secure a better exemption status on Asian Tour next year.

“I know I’m getting close to it and just need solid finish this week. No Japanese has done it before, so I’ll be so happy if I can accomplish the goal for my country,” said Sekito.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 23: Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas clinched his third Asian Development Tour (ADT) title and second win of the season with a three-shot victory at the PGM MIDF ADT Championship on Saturday.

Pannakorn, the 2017 ADT Order of Merit champion, closed with two straight birdies to sign for a two-under-par 70 and a winning total of 14-under 272 at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club located in Nilai.

Local hopeful Leunkwang Kim, who shared the third round lead with Pannakorn, settled for a three-way tie for second place with compatriot M. Sasidaran and Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan after he could only muster a 73 to finish on 11-under-par 277.

Thailand’s Chonlatit Chuenboonngam and Justin De Los Santos of the Philippines both carded matching 71s to finish six shots back in fifth place at the US$54,000 event, which is the third last stop of the 19-event Tour schedule this season.

Pannakorn and Kim got the finale off to a fine start by picking up shot in their opening holes but it was the Thai who edged ahead after Kim fumbled on the second.

Although dropping a shot on hole four, Pannakorn would bounce back later on nine and 11 to open up a three-shot cushion at that point.

Not to be outdone, Kim, who had three blemishes in the first nine, charged back into contention right after the turn by firing five birdies against one bogey to draw level with Pannakorn on 13-under through 15 holes.

Pannakorn, on the other hand, had bogeys on 13 and 15.

But Kim’s hopes of adding a second ADT title to the PGM MNRB ADT Championship in September had immediately gone up in smoke when he squandered three shots over the next two holes, including a double bogey on 16.

With the pressure’s off, a buoyed Pannakorn finished off in style by sinking two back-to-back long birdie putts in the last two holes.

“I’m so happy today. This is the second time I have won this season (after the PGM Johor ADT Championship), and a third overall on the ADT.

“I didn’t play too good in the middle, but it’s okay because I managed to finish strongly.

“When Kim fumbled and I had my lead restored, I knew I had to make the opportunity counts.

“And it’s nice to finish off with two birdies. On 17, it was downhill from about 15 feet and the 18 was even more memorable as I rolled it up the slope from more than 30 feet.

“My ball-striking wasn’t the greatest this week, but I made a lot of good putts. My hot putter made the difference.

A cool US$9,529 winner’s cheque has propelled Pannakorn to second on the Order of Merit, giving him a mathematical chance to become the first ever golfer to top the ADT money list twice.

But it will be a monumental task as Pannakorn must win the remaining two events in the schedule whilst hoping Sekito, who leads by US$20,000, to miss cut in both tournaments.

“Winning the Order of Merit again? Maybe not as Sekito is really too far ahead for me to catch. But if I can win the next tournament, then we’ll see.

“But all that matters to me is to remain in the top seven until the end of the season. Now that I have gone up to second, I think I have a really good chance to secure my Asian Tour card.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 22: Malaysia’s Leunkwang Kim had an ace to thank for lifting him to the top of the leaderboard with overnight leader Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand at the penultimate stage of the PGM MIDF ADT Championship on Friday.

Kim closed his round with an even-par 72 as his hole-in-one on the par-three eight and three birdies made up for his five bogeys at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club.

Pannakorn meanwhile managed a 73 after trading three birdies against four bogeys as both carded a three-day total of 12-under-par 204.

Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito sits just two shots off the pair with a 69, while Justin De Los Santos (70), Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (70), Gregory Foo (72) and Airil Zahari (73) are five shots away from the joint-leaders.

Kim, who led the first round was grateful for his 159-yard hole-in-one which proved to be the highlight of what he described as an ordinary round.

“I hit that on the soft eight, made a good line and was happy to see it go in. But overall I didn’t do too well, especially with the three bogeys at the end,” said Kim.

Kim started off with a bogey on the third hole, but recovered with a birdie on the fifth hole before his ace on eight.

He overcame his bogey on nine with consecutive birdies on 10 and 11, but three bogeys on 12, 16 and 18 derailed his chances for snatching the outright lead.

“I will stick to my game plan for the final round and hope to improve on my putting,” added Kim.

Overnight leader Pannakorn, who posted rounds of 66 and 65 in the first two days could not build on his lead.

He sank his first birdie on seven, but the back-nine proved his undoing as he committed four bogeys on 11, 15, 16 and 18. But thankfully for him, birdies on 10 and 17 kept him atop the leaderboard.

“I’m not too worried despite my round today. I am still in the lead,” said Pannakorn with a laugh.

“My putting was okay, but I will need to hit it better off the tee in the final round. Kim and I are good friends, so we will be talking a lot on the course tomorrow (Saturday),”added the Thai.

Both men are chasing a second title on the Asian Development Tour this year.

Pannakorn won in Malaysia in March, while Kim became the first Malaysian to win a title this year when he triumphed in September.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 21: Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas posted a seven-under-par 65 to open up a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the PGM MIDF ADT Championship on Thursday.

Pannakorn, who fired a 66 in the opening round, continued to show his consistency at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club by marking his card with eight birdies and one bogey for a two-day total of 13-under-par 131.

Overnight leader Leunkwang Kim of Malaysia trails the Thai in second place, while his compatriot Airil Zahari and Singapore’s Gregory Foo are placed in second and third place respectively after the trio ended the day with matching 69s.

Pannakorn has already won in Malaysia in May and is optimistic of another victory after making changes to his back swing.

“My putting has been good, and I’m happy with my consistency. Today I started from the first hole, and I was happy to have started well,” said Pannakorn.

A birdie in the opening hole paved the way for three consecutive ones from the third hole.

But Pannakorn was especially pleased with his birdie putt on the fifth.

“I sank that putt from about 10 yards from left to right, and it was a difficult one especially with the strong wind. That gave me confidence to continue doing well.”

The 29-year-old closed out the front nine with another two birdies. He managed another two after the turn, with one bogey on the 11th the only blemish.

Pannakorn currently occupies seventh spot on the Order of Merit, which is the cut-off mark for players vying to earn 2020 Asian Tour cards.

While he is confident of his chances of  winning the PGM MIDF ADT Championship, Pannakorn is just enjoying his game at the moment.

“I’m in the same group as Kim who is my good friend, so it’s been nice. I have a good feeling (about winning), but there are still two rounds to go,” he added.

Foo, who trails Pannakorn by six shots , is hoping to close the gap after he traded six birdies against one bogey and a double-bogey five on 16.

“I’ll have to set myself up with the iron, be aggressive and hope to make as many birdies,” said the Singaporean.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 20: Malaysia’s Leunkwang Kim fired a solid nine-under-par 63 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the US$54,000 PGM MIDF ADT Championship on Wednesday.

Kim’s flawless round included nine birdies at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club, which also marked his best tournament score as a professional.

The 24-year-old leads current Order of Merit (OOM) leader Naoki Sekito (65) by two shots, while Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas (66) trails by the Malaysian leader by three shots.

Malaysian duo Airil Zahari and M. Sasidaran complete the top five with matching 67s.

Kim became the first Malaysian to win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) this year when he triumphed in Kuching back in September.

Clinching that first ADT title instilled loads of confidence in him coming into this event.

“I have been playing well, and winning only gave me more confidence. Today I started great with a 15-foot birdie putt on my first hole. That got me going,” said Kim.

Buoyed by that great opener on the 10th, the Malaysian was in imperious form as he reeled off another five birdies, including four consecutive ones from 12th.

He was not able to match the sublime start after the turn, but a further three birdies ensured he would head into the second round in pole position.

“I was struggling a little with my putting the last few days, but today everything seemed to fall into place. The course is also excellent, the greens are made for good putting.”

Kim is also the highest Malaysian on the ADT Order Of Merit at 19th place, but he is not thinking too far ahead just yet.

“Of course it would be nice for me to finish in the top seven, but there are still three tournaments left. I’m taking it one round at a time,” he said.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 19: Armed with a new back swing and a rise on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit ranking, Thailand’s Pannakorn Uthaipas has set his sights on claiming the PGM MIDF ADT Championship which tees off on Wednesday.

Pannakorn moved up one rung to seventh place on the  Order of Merit, which is the cut-off mark for players vying to earn 2020 Asian Tour cards, after previous leader Joohyung Kim made his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Panasonic Open India on Sunday.  

Kim, who won his third AT title this season in Pakistan last month to earn playing rights on the Asian Tour for the remainder of the season, secured a one-year winner’s exemption on the Asian Tour following his victory.

Having secured his Asian Tour card for 2020, the 17-year-old teen sensation will no longer feature on the ADT Order of Merit as he will not be eligible for any of the remaining ADT events this season.

Pannakorn, who was crowned the ADT Order of Merit champion in 2017, is hoping to work his way back onto the Asian Tour by putting up a noteworthy performance in Malaysia this week.

“Now that Kim is no longer leading the Order of Merit, I have a good chance to qualify for the Asian Tour again.. That is my main goal. If I can hit well with my iron, I believe I have a good chance to win this tournament too,” said Pannakorn.

The 29-year-old has amassed US$19,764 thanks to a victory in Malaysia earlier in March. A good outing at the US$54,000 ADT event, held at the Kota Seriemas Golf and Country Club this week, will further consolidate his position.

“I have changed my grip and back swing, to get my distance back. In the last two years I have been a long hitter, but I have lost my distance and I want to get it back. I feel better, but still not 100 percent. I hope it’s a good week for me,” added Pannakorn.

Pannakorn became only the second Thai golfer to do lift the ADT Order of Merit crown after Pavit Tangkamolprasert did so in 2014.

“If I can play well in these two events coming up on the ADT, I will feel more comfortable heading into the season-ending Taifong Open in Chinese Taipei,” added Pannakorn, who won the Taifong Open in 2017.

The Thai is expected to face resistance from defending champion Sam Gillis, who is only two rungs below him on the Merit rankings.

New Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan will be among the frontrunners for the title, along with his countryman Ryuichi Oiwa and Sweden’s Oscar Zetterwell.