Samui, Thailand: Former Asian Tour number one Liang Wen-chong of China will be gunning for a winning debut at the Queen’s Cup starting on Thursday to revive his hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
The Chinese star was bumped out of the race to Rio de Janeiro following countryman Wu Ashun’s victory in Austria over the weekend but he has vowed to keep fighting starting with this week’s Asian Tour stop at Santiburi Samui Country Club.
A stellar field has assembled for the 10th leg of the season with title holder Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, big-hitting Aussie star Scott Hend, Korea’s rising star Jeunghun Wang, India’s Rahil Gangjee and Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman being the top headliners.
With Wu rising to 127th in the latest Official World Golf Ranking and Li Hao-tong lying seven rungs below, the 195th ranked Liang has four more tournaments to overtake either golfer to qualify for China’s two-man team for Rio.
“My plan is to play in the Olympic Games. All players wish to play in the Olympics and hope it will help China golf grow further. Li won the China Open this year and with Wu winning in Austria, that’s very good for our team. We’re getting stronger,” said Liang, who is currently 29th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
“It’s my first time coming to play in Samui. I also want to keep my Asian Tour card and need to play the minimum of eight tournaments to be on the Merit list at the end of the year.”
This season, Liang’s form has been hot and cold, with a third place finish in Singapore and 10th in Japan recently sandwiching several missed cut appearances. He reckons his putting needs to improve drastically if he is to challenge for the Queen’s Cup title this weekend.
“The game is feeling good. I’m looking to regain my putting feel. That’s very important. My ball striking has been good which I’m happy about,” said 37-year-old Liang, China’s first golfer to become the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion in 2007.
“I’m working hard as I want to join the Olympic Games. We are trying to represent China and I’ll be happy if the strongest players represent our country. Li and Wu are now the top-two but if you work hard, anything can happen.”
Straight-shooting Siddikur is happy to return to his happy hunting ground where in six previous appearances at the Queen’s Cup, he has finished top-three on three occasions and not finished lower than 16th place.
The 31-year-old is also keen to atone for the disappointment of losing to Wang at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open last month where he led by three shots with three holes remaining.
“I always like to come back to Samui. I am inspired to be back here. In my pro career, this was the place where I did good in 2010. I had my first top-10 here and then I went on to win in Brunei (for his first Asian Tour win). I have good memories about this place,” said Siddikur.
“I like this kind of golf course, it’s tight and narrow. It’s also windy out and it suits my game. I believe that’s the reason why I always play well here.
“I wasn’t too disappointed in Mauritius. At the start of the week, my goal was to finish top-10, top-15. Mentally, I maybe couldn’t tolerate the pressure. I played well with the exception of the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. I felt hurt but after a while, I thanked God that I could finish second. I jumped up the Order of Merit and I also got back into the Olympic qualifying frame. I think I should be safe now for the Olympics now,” said Siddikur.
Gangjee, who has enjoyed three top-10s and two top-20s this season, is anticipating a good week in Samui, both on and off the golf course.
“It doesn’t matter what the prize purse we play here. Everybody loves coming to Samui. This place is amazing. You have to be on your game to play on this golf course. I’ve had a few top-10s here, but this place has been blowing hot and cold for me. It treats me well and then it treats me badly! But this year, I’m feeling good,” said Gangjee, who is a one-time winner on the Asian Tour and currently ranked 14th on the Order of Merit.
He credited his strong start to 2016 to work done with a sports psychologist where the focus has been on his post-shot attitude.
“We’ve done somethings which have helped me. Things like how I handle my reaction after a shot, that’s helped me stay calmer on the golf course,” he said.
It’s been a year now working with the psychologist (Jay Lee Nair). There’s a lot of neuro linguistic stuff, a lot of hypnosis which I’ve done before too. We get into a deep relaxation state and (she starts) feeding positive sentences. You’re still in control but your mind accepts instructions easier.”