The golf world may not be too familiar with Poom Saksansin but PGA TOUR stars Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson certainly know all about the baby-faced Thai golfer nicknamed the “Assassin”.
The 26-year-old Poom will tee up in the US$10.25 million World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind starting on Thursday with every intention of upstaging the stars in Memphis, a historical city known as the home of Blues, Soul, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Poom earned his place in the elite field after winning the BNI Indonesian Masters in December for his third Asian Tour title. While his recent form has been off key and causing him to sing the blues, the likeable Thai is determined to make the most of his second WGC appearance.
“Playing in this big event is a big opportunity for me, especially when the prize money is high and the field is very strong,” said Poom with the help of a translator.
Last year, Poom stood out as a hero for Team Asia in their defeat to Team Europe at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia. He first partnered Korea’s Sung Kang, who is also in the field this week, to defeat Stenson and Frenchman Alex Levy 5 & 4 in the fourball format and then stunned Casey 1-up in the singles.
“We need to rename him ‘Assassin’ instead of Saksansin,” joked Stenson, who is a six-time PGA TOUR winner including the 2007 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Poom’s victory was especially sweet as he grew up idolising Stenson.
Casey, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, recalls his encounter against the Thai. “He flatly beat me …. putted brilliantly and dusted me off at the last. And I was playing very nicely that week. I was trying to get a clean sweep of points. But that just shows how good he is, and I’m a good match play player,” said the Englishman.
Poom, who finished a commendable T24 in the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, knows he needs to regain some semblance of his best form after hitting a road bump recently, thanks to a misbehaving driver.
“My form is not on track at the moment but I’m doing everything I can to improve my game. I need my driver to work again,” said Poom, who has hit 54% of fairways on the Japan Tour and 64% on the Asian Tour this season.
“For me, WGC is big event. As there is no (halfway) cut, there will be less pressure, so it should be a good time to perform. I’m hoping to have a good time in Memphis,” added the Thai, who is currently ranked 249th in the world after starting the year at 140th position.
While countrymen Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the first Thai to play full-time on the PGA TOUR, and Jazz Janewattananond have emerged as the country’s leading golfers in recent times, Poom is keen to get into the act and take his game onto the big stage on a regular basis.
“Kiradech is showing Thai golfers can get to the PGA TOUR and he’s inspiring the kids,” said Poom, who is the lone Thai representative in the field this week.
He learned to play the game at the age of 10 and started beating his father regularly when he was 12. Poom represented Thailand and helped the team win the gold medal in the regional Southeast Asian Games in 2011 and 2013 before turning professional.
Poom harboured dreams of playing collegiate golf in the U.S. but failed the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). “I got straight A’s in most of my studies but not English. I would sleep in that class,” he said with a laugh.
With the opportunity to show what he is capable of doing this week, Poom is looking forward to playing in front of the Memphis fans. “When I watch golf on TV, I love the fans. It is exciting for golfers when there are big crowds. I want to be playing in front of big crowds all the time if I can,” said Poom.