In-form Plaphol early favourite at Singha E-San Open

Khon Kaen, Thailand; June 28: In-form Chawalit Plaphol, whose successes on the ASEAN PGA Tour last year helped him regain his form and confidence after a long period in the doldrums, will be the player to beat at this week’s Singha E-San Open.

The Thai, who possesses one of the sweetest swings in the Asian game, capped his resurgence with victory earlier this month in the Queen’s Cup on home soil. It was the 36-year-old’s third win on the Asian Tour and came five years after his last triumph on the circuit.

Chawalit will face a strong field in the Singha E-San Open, the third leg of the 2011 ASEAN PGA Tour, at Singha Park Golf Club from June 29 to July 2. The event is joint-sanctioned by the All Thailand Golf Tour.

Defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant, Prayad Marksaeng, a multiple winner on the Asian and Japan Tours, highly talented youngster Kiradech Aphibarnrat and current ASEAN PGA Tour number one Thanyakon Khrongpha pose the biggest threats to their countryman.

Chawalit won the ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Championship and the Mercedes-Benz Masters Singapore on the ASEAN PGA Tour last year as he battled back to top form.

“I won twice on the ASEAN PGA Tour last year, which boosted my confidence and helped me re-find my game,” said Chawalit. “I am coming into this event with victory in the Queen’s Cup fresh in my memory and it would be good to keep the momentum going with another win.”

Chawalit held a one-shot lead going into the final round of last year’s Singha E-San Open but endured a rollercoaster last day with seven bogeys and five birdies for a 74 and eventually finished tied third.

“I led going into the final round last year before falling back. If I can get in that situation again hopefully I can close out the tournament this time,” he said.

The legendary Thaworn birdied the first play-off hole to beat countryman Namchok Tantipokhakul last year. It was the former Asian number one’s second victory on the ASEAN PGA Tour after his triumph in the 2009 Heritage Melaka Classic.

“My victory last year was special as the course is long and I surprised myself with how well I played,” said the 44-year-old Thaworn, who is renowned for his deadly short game.

“It would be good to successfully defend the title but it will be a tough task with so many good players in the field and the course not really suiting my game.”

Prayad will come into the tournament with a bounce in his step after clinching a place at next month’s British Open after finishing in joint sixth place in the Japan Tour’s Mizuno Open at the weekend. It will be his fourth appearance at the oldest Major following outings in 1999, 2008 and 2009.

Thanyakon reinforced his reputation as one of Asia’s brightest stars with victory in ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Championship earlier this month and will be keen to increase his lead in the moneylist.

Filipino Jay Bayron, who had a string of second-place finishes on the ASEAN PGA Tour last year and has placed in the top-10 in both of this season’s events, leads the overseas challenge. –