Singaporean ace Mardan Mammat’s red hot form marks him out as one of the prime market fancies when the inaugural US$300,000 Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic hits the fairways of the Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort (AGR) in the heritage city of Siem Reap today.
Cambodian amateur Ly Hong sets out with Choi Chun Ho of Korea and Chris Rodgers of England in the first batch of three to tee off at 6:50am, marking the Kingdom’s return to big time golf after the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open’s uncermonious exit from the Asian Tour.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s second amateur to figure in a field of 144, Seng Vanseiha, will have to wait until 1:15pm for his turn to tee off in the company of Akinori Tani of Japan and Wittawat Sae Ung of Thailand.
The fifth event of the Tour this year has attracted a starry line-up that boasts six of the top 10 in the Order of Merit and 30 tour champions from 30 nationalities.
But as impressive and imposing as the depth of the field is, the recent headlines have all been screaming about 44-year-old Mammat. The City State’s most successful player on the Tour bounced back from an agonising six-year wait to regain his trophy-winning ways in the ICTSI Phillipine Open in February.
As if to conclusively prove that it was no flash in the pan, he produced a blazing win at the Asian Development Tour in Malaysia last week, that on the top of picking up a qualifying ticket to the British Open in Bangkok.
With that hot streak behind him, Mammat, who is now sixth on the merit list, could well be the pacesetter for two of the most accomplished Thai contenders, Prayad Markseang and Prom Meesawat.
“The golf course is in great condition. This is the best we have played in weeks. It is challenging. I like the lay out,” three-time Tour winner Mammat, who is averaging 29.1 putts per round, told reporters yesterday.
A flaming 64 from Prayad Markseang in Bangkok on his way to British Open qualification is still fresh enough to make his rivals quake in their boots. Interestingly, Prayad breaks out to the links today with Mammat and Berry Henson of the United States.
As the highest ranking Tour player in the field at third place, 26-year-old Prom Meesawat has a perfect track record to support his claims for this week’s title. Prom holds the lowest round stroke average of 69.75 on the tour, and the idea of simply enjoying his golf could lead him back to the winner’s enclosure.
The pack is fully loaded with potential that could explode any time in the form of Australia’s Scott Barr, Daisuke Maruyama of Japan, Shiv Kapur of India and exciting Thai duo Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Chapchai Nirat, two of the longest drivers in Asia.
Barr is 11th on the money list and is keen to overturn a bad patch at the SAIL-SBI Open in India, where he stumbled from a leading position by triple bogeying the 71st hole. Watch out for a little gadget that he purchased from a plumbing store which he claims has worked wonders for his putting.
While the top guns are blazing away, Japan’s 56-year-old Masahiro Kuramoto and one year his junior Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand could provide the vintage touch. Both are special invitees, and legends in their own right, who continue to be as zestful for competition as ever.
A popular winner of the 2009 Cambodian Open, Marcus Both of Australia is looking for a swing in fortunes after a somewhat fruitless 2011. He has fond memories of Siem Reap and hopes it will inspire him to rediscover his winning form.
The legend of six-time Major winner Sir Nick Faldo is not just omnipresent in the event’s title but it is spread all over AGR as one of his testing designs in which risks and rewards go hand in hand.
“I am as keen as any one else to see how the golf course plays out in this highly competitive field in an event of this caliber,” AGR General Manager Adam Robertson told the Post yesterday, echoing the sentiments of many of the top notchers.