October 23, Palembang, Indonesia: The Palembang Musi Championship tees-off this Wednesday on the ASEAN PGA Tour playing an exciting and crucial role in determining who gets to play in the lucrative Barclays Singapore Open in two weeks.
The leading three players from the ASEAN PGA Order of Merit after this week’s tournament gain entry into the US$6 million event and with the prize money for Palembang having been increased to US$150,000 – twice as much as last year – the race is wide open.
Not surprisingly a strong field has entered including Indonesian number one Rory Hie, defending champion Wisut Artjanawat from Thailand, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Malaysian Nicholas Fung.
The tournament is being played at Palembang Golf Club and the rise in the purse makes it the most lucrative ASEAN PGA event this season.
Wisut, by virtue of winning last year’s Merit title, has already earned a place in the Singapore Open as has Mamat but the likes of Hie and Fung will be eyeing the US$24,050 first place cheque to see them through to Sentosa Golf Club.
In fact finishing second or third, worth cheques for US$16,465 and US$9,145.50, could also be enough.
“I am really psyched about this week. A top three finish should be able to earn a place in the Barclays Singapore Open,” said Hie, who is in 10th place on the Merit list.
Last week he finished in a tie for 25th in the Kolon Korea Open on OneAsia and the week before that he was equal eighth in the Nanshan China Masters, also on OneAsia.
“I have been playing really well this year and have stepped up a gear from last year,” added Hie.
In Palembang last season Hie was just three off the pace at the halfway stage but a final round two-over-par 74 saw him end in a tie for 12th.
Fung finished second in Palembang five shots behind Wisut and is also excited about the prospect of playing Singapore.
The young man from Sabah is fifth on the Merit list but with two players above him, Merit list leader Thaworn Wiratchant from Thailand and his countryman Thanyakon Khrongpha, having already earned their berths in Singapore through other channels, he presently holds the third qualifying place.
“At this stage I am in but that could all change by Sunday as the prize money is very good this week and a lot of good players are here,” said Fung.
“However I played well here last year and feel I am playing well enough to have a high finish this week.”
Also competing and eager to qualify for Sentosa are Jay Bayron from the Philippines, who is second on the Merit list, and Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul, winner of the Singha Esan Open in August and third on the Merit list.
Other fancied runners include Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang and Koh Dengshan, Filipinos Antonio Lascuna and Gerald Rosales and Malaysian Kenneth De Silva.
The Palembang Musi Championship made its debut on the ASEAN PGA Tour last year and was an outstanding success.
It was an event on the domestic circuit for a couple of years but organizers chose to elevate it to a more regional status.
In 2011 it also acted as a teaser for the 26th Southeast Asian Games which was held in Jakarta and Palembang.
Palembang Golf Club will provide an excellent test for competitors who will also be able to enjoy playing what is one of the eldest golf clubs in the country as it was opened in 1926.
Palembang is the capital city of South Sumatra Province and is located on the banks of the Musi River. It has a population of nearly 1.5 million and is the nation’s seventh-largest city.