Sentosa, Singapore: India’s Chiragh Kumar earned his 2016 Asian Tour card after battling to a joint runner-up finish at the US$1 million Venetian Macao Open for his best result since 2011.
The 31-year-old was delighted to secure full playing rights for next season after narrowly missing out on a full card when he finished 65th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year.
He won US$86,500 after finishing behind eventual winner Scott Hend of Australia to swell his season’s haul to US$107,737 which pushed him from 69th position to 24th place on the merit list.
Kumar said he draws inspiration from compatriots Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who were in the same team as him in the 2006 Doha Asian Games where they claimed the silver medal.
“Looking at how well they have done has always been an inspiration for me. We all started out together and we turned professional almost at the same time. Gaganjeet has turned superstar now and so has Anirban,” he said.
“I’m playing well right now. I think I just need to put forth all these together. I think it’s more mental than anything else. These guys are really good and they really know how to handle themselves. That’s something I really need to learn. I just do my own thing and I just try to keep focused,” said Kumar.
Australian Scott Hend, who won the Venetian Macao Open for the second time in three years, praised Kumar’s battling spirit.
“Kumar played amazing golf for a guy who hasn’t got a full card. His golf this week was amazing and hopefully he can get an invite into this week’s tournament. He played very good,” said the 42-year-old Hend, who won his seventh Asian Tour title in Macao.
Lahiri, who also finished tied-second with Kumar, hopes his countryman will continue the momentum in the second half of the Asian Tour season.
“I’m very happy to see how well Chiragh played. It’s a big year for him, he’s become a dad. He lost his card last year but he has won so many times in India. He’s just showed today that he can play under the gun when it really matters as he had a lot to play for,” said Lahiri.
“It was really impressive to see how he handled himself, including the putt on the last. I’m happy for him and hopefully he wins on the Asian Tour soon. He nearly won the Indian Open a few years ago so he can get it done,” added the 28-year-old.
Lahiri, who has won twice this season, extended his lead on the Order of Merit to US$1,011,984. He is the third player in Asian Tour history to surpass the USD 1 million earnings barrier in a single season, achieved thus far by countryman Jeev Milkha Singh and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.
Hend, who won with a record winning total of 20-under-par 264, took home the winner’s prize purse of US$180,000 and moved to second place on the Order of Merit with earnings of US$438,781. He will defend his UBS Hong Kong Open title this week.
Asian Development Tour (ADT) graduates Brett Munson of the United States and Niall Turner of Ireland, who came in fourth and fifth respectively at the Venetian Macao Open, kept up hopes of retaining their Tour cards for next season as they moved up to 41st and 49th positions on the Order of Merit.
As of October 26, the leading four golfers from the Order of Merit will qualify for the US$8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions which will take place at the Sheshan International Golf Club from November 5 to 8 while the leading 10 players will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club from October 29 to November 1.
Players will have everything to play for in this week’s US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open as it is the final chance for them to battle their way into the Malaysian and Shanghai showpieces.
Asian Tour Order of Merit (Top-20)
Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)
1 Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 1011984.65
2 Scott HEND (AUS) 438781.66
3 Andrew DODT (AUS) 388450.42
4 S.S.P. CHAWRASIA (IND) 278558.75
5 Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 239340.13
6 Richard T. LEE (CAN) 220317.65
7 Cameron SMITH (AUS) 203518.66
8 Danny CHIA (MAS) 199613.86
9 Paul PETERSON (USA) 181896.52
10 Marcus FRASER (AUS) 181299.77
11 Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 180305
12 Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 149442.93
13 Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 125600.01
14 Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 120133.57
15 Carlos PIGEM (ESP) 120034.52
16 Nathan HOLMAN (AUS) 118621.09
17 Mithun PERERA (SRI) 116129.06
18 Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 115833.33
19 LIANG Wenchong (CHN) 115452.5
20 Rashid KHAN (IND) 114710.14