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Golf Shafts Asia on the Asian Tour




Golf Shafts Asia Tour Support - Open Qualifying, Amata Spring Country Club, Chonburi, Thailand

Fomr asiantour.com

Chonburi, Thailand, March 7: China's Wu Ashun will savour the prospect of making his second appearance at The Open Championship after he successfully earned one of the four tickets with a second round four-under-par 68 at the Open Qualifying Series-Thailand on Friday. Japan's Hiroshi Iwata, who held the overnight lead, topped the 36-hole qualifying event when he signed off with a 71 for a two-day total of five-under-par 139 at the Amata Spring Country Club.

Chinese Taipei amateur Pan Cheng-tsung will also get the chance to tee off against the world's best players after he posted identical 70s over two rounds to finish tied-second with Wu. Japan's Tsukada Yoshinobu survived a four-way play-off and emerged as the last man standing when a par on the fourth extra hole was enough to seal his passage into The Open Championship which will be held at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from July 17-20.

Now that he has earned his ticket to The Open Championship, Wu is determined to display the same fighting spirit that saw him overcome a slow start and power his way back into contention at the hotly contested two-day qualifier. "I'm extremely happy as I was struggling with my round yesterday, But I managed to make up for all of that by getting a good score today," said Wu, who opened his qualifier with a 72 and started his round four shots behind Iwata in tied-22nd position.

"Making my debut at The Open Championship was an eye opener for me last year. Now that I've qualified again, I'll make the best of my opportunity and try to put up a better performance," added the Chinese, who missed the cut last year. Iwata is also relishing the prospects of making an impression on the biggest stage when he makes his return to the world's oldest Major after an absence of six years. Having seized pole position after the first round, Iwata continued his stranglehold of the lead with two birdies in his opening four holes.

His charge was halted when he bogeyed seven and eight. However, another birdie on 11 brought him back to five-under where he would then make pars on the rest of his holes coming home. "It's great to return to The Open Championship. It has been a long time and I'm happy to be back. I trained hard for this week and I'm glad the efforts finally paid off. I've been striking the ball well and I was confident of my chances. I hope to carry this form over The Open Championship," said Iwata.

Pan is still feeling ecstatic about teeing up at The Open Championship despite having made two Major appearances at the US Open in 2011 and 2013. "I'm still in a state of shock but at the same time I'm really happy with how I've played considering how tough this qualifier has been. I really hung in there during the last couple of holes," said Pan, who has been living in Seattle, United States since 2007.

Pan, who is pursuing a Communications degree at the University of Washington, is bracing for the challenges that will await him at Royal Liverpool but is confident of getting another good result. "The conditions are going to be very different at Royal Liverpool but I guess that's what golf is all about. You've got to learn to play and compete under different conditions and hopefully, I can do well again in July," said the 22-year-old.

Tsukada went the distance in a four-way play-off with compatriot Masahiro Kawamura, Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond and American David Lipsky. The Japanese stuck closely to his game plan and was duly rewarded when a par on the fourth extra play-off hole was just enough for him to earn his hard-fought ticket to Royal Liverpool after the trio had fell out of the equation.

"It was tough to make birdies during the play-off and I just said to myself that as long as I can hit the ball onto the fairway, I should be safe," said Tsukada. "I've played in the Open in 2004 and 2008. I missed the cuts on those two occasions but hopefully, I get to play all four rounds this time," added the Japanese.

Leading scores after round 2 of the The Open Qualifying Series Thailand 2014 being played at the par 72, 7454 Yards Amata Spring CC course (a- denotes amateur):

139 Hiroshi IWATA (JPN) 68-71.

140 WU Ashun (CHN) 72-68, PAN Cheng-tsung (am, TPE) 70-70.

141 Yoshinobu TSUKADA (JPN) 72-69, Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) 72-69, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 71-70, David LIPSKY (USA) 70-71.


Preview

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng will lead the home players seeking to qualify for The Open Championship in this week's Open Qualifying Series event at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi. Marksaeng and India's Anirban Lahiri head an international field of 76 golfers who will play in the 36-hole qualifying event on Thursday, 6 March and Friday, 7 March with four places in The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from 17-20 July, 2014 at stake.

The event is the third stop in the Open Qualifying Series and will give players from across the region the chance to play in golf's oldest Major Championship. Competitors from 18 countries will be bidding to secure their place at The Open, including ten players from Thailand. Marksaeng, an eight-time winner on the Asian Tour, is looking to make his sixth appearance at The Open in 2014. The reigning Thailand Open champion is one of the country's most successful golfers but has yet to make the cut at The Open Championship.

His last Open appearance was at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012, and the Hua Hin native earned a place in the field after finishing second at the 2012 International Final Qualifying event at Amata Spring. "I have been proud to play in The Open Championship in the past and I'm hoping I can repeat the success I had in qualifying at Amata Spring in 2012. The new Open Qualifying Series is a great opportunity for players from Thailand and the Asia-Pacific region to earn a place in the field at Royal Liverpool. I'm sure everyone will be competing hard for those four places," said Marksaeng.

Another player expected to be a contender is India's Anirban Lahiri, who made his Major Championship debut at The 2012 Open. It was a memorable outing, with Lahiri making a hole-in-one in the third round before finishing tied for 31st. "Playing in The Open at Royal Lytham was one of the highlights of my career so far and I really enjoyed the challenge of links golf. The hole-in-one on the 9th hole capped it all as my dad was there to watch me. He was jumping up and down with excitement and that memory will stay with me forever. I would very much like to qualify once again and play at Royal Liverpool in July," said Lahiri, who is a three-time winner on the Asian Tour and India's highest-ranked professional golfer.

Liang Wen-Chong will look to make his return to The Open after becoming the first Chinese player to make the cut at a Major Championship when he finished tied for 64th at the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale. Liang, who is a Working for Golf Ambassador for The R&A, has notched 19 career tournament wins. Among the other players in the field with experience of The Open are Mardan Mamat, who has made three appearances in the Championship and was the first Singaporean to play at The Open in 1997, and China's Ashun Wu, who made his Major Championship debut at Muirfield in 2013. Established in 2005, Amata Spring Country Club is one of Thailand's most prestigious golf facilities and has hosted numerous international tournaments including the 2013 Thailand Open in December that was won by Sergio Garcia. The par-3 17th is the Club's signature hole, featuring the only floating green in Asia.

The four players that qualify for The Open this week will join Australians John Senden, Rhein Gibson and Bryden Macpherson who qualified at the Emirates Australian Open in November 2013. George Coetzee and Justin Walters of South Africa and Jin Jeong of South Korea secured the three places on offer at The Joburg Open in South Africa in February. Competitors will play a total of 36 holes on March 6 and 7 with the top four finishers earning places in the field at The 143rd Open Championship.