Date: February 20, 2013
Author: Golf Australia

Pratt hunting successful title defence in Myanmar

Golf Australia Rookie Squad member Kieran Pratt hopes to overcome the pressure as defending champion at this week&aposs Zaykabar Myanmar Open presented by Alpine and secure a memorable defence as he launches his 2013 season. I always put pressure on myself to play well. Having a winner s exemption is not any reason for me to rest on my laurels and think that everything is going to fine because I have a job next year. I want to play well this year and work my way up the world rankings. I want to be a world-class player, said the 24-year-old. There s a little bit of pressure when you defend a title and you want to put in a good performance after winning the event the year before. There s pressure in every event to come out and play well, added the Australian, who is playing in his third Asian Tour season. Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant has been given the honour of hitting the opening tee shot when the Asian Tour s 10th season begins on Thursday. The highly decorated Thai, who holds a record 15 Asian Tour wins, will be paired with fellow countryman Boonchu Ruangkit, who hit the first shot when the Tour was launched as a players organisation in 2004, and Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat. The leading trio will launch the US$300,000 event from the 10th tee as a symbolic move. While honoured, the 46-year-old Thaworn is determined to take the last putt of the tournament on Sunday afternoon as he seeks a winning start to his 2013 campaign at the Royal Mingalardon Golf and Country Club on the region s premier circuit. With two Order of Merit titles under his belt over the past decade, Thaworn termed his career on the Asian Tour as a perfect 10 . It has been a perfect 10 years for me because my career has taken off. I keep getting better and better and if this was a company, it would mean that I got a promotion in my career. I m glad to have the honour to hit the first shot this Thursday for the 10th Asian Tour season but I want to be the last player to hole the winning putt on Sunday and take the trophy home! he smiled. The evergreen veteran, who received a special invitation to compete in The Masters Tournament in April and will play in the British Open courtesy of his Merit win, is currently ranked 78th on the Official World Golf Ranking. His goals for the season include staying in the world s top-100 and adding to his career tally where he is two Asian tour titles ahead of countryman Thongchai Jaidee. I ve played on the Asian Tour for many years so I m not feeling nervous ahead of the new 2013 season. I want to keep going and improving on my world ranking. I want to stay in the top-100. Golf is a cycle. You don t expect to play good in every tournament, said Thaworn. Singapore s Mardan, a three-time Asian Tour winner, knows a victory this week will fuel his ambition of finishing in the top-10 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit. I want to try and break into the top-10 of the Order of Merit this season. Hopefully by doing that, I can win one Asian Tour event. I have another two years of my winner s exemption and that will give me the opportunity to focus on what I want to do. There s not much stress for me to play this year. I just want to get better and hit my target, said the 45-year-old, who has been focusing on his fitness in pre-season. Boonchu will be the oldest player in the elite field, which includes no fewer than 25 Asian Tour champions and players from 26 different nationalities. At 56, he proved he still had what it takes to stay in the upper echelons by finishing 61st on the Order of Merit last season to earn full playing rights in 2013. The veteran lauded the growth of the Asian Tour in the last few years and hopes to see more young Asian players breaking through the ranks. The Asian Tour has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. There are many young and talented players now and I hope to see even more young players playing and winning on the Asian Tour, he said. Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, a four-time Asian Tour winner has unfinished business at the Zaykabar Myanmar Open as he was in contention after three days last season before fading with a final round 76 to end his campaign in tied 20th. The course is not playing long and I feel comfortable here. I ve won in Myanmar before and played three good days last year. I m quite confident that I can win again this week, said the 2010 Myanmar Open champion. Local amateur Thein Naing Soe is among 22 Myanmarese players in the field and he hopes the experience will put him in good stead when he represents the country in the Southeast Asian Games in December. It is great that we will be playing with the Asian Tour stars. I hope to learn a thing or two for them as I prepare for the South East Asian Games. I m very proud and excited to be playing this week, said Thein.