Siem Reap: South Africa’s Anton Haig aims to launch a comeback into golfing prominence when he tees up in inaugural HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic which starts on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Haig had the world at his feet when he claimed a famous victory at the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand against a star-studded cast which included fellow countrymen and Major champions Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
It was his second Asian Tour title back then but a combination of injuries and loss of form saw his career spiral downwards which subsequently prompted a premature retirement last November.
But with a new swing coach and management company backing him now, Haig is eager to relaunch his career as he competes in this week’s US$300,000 HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic at the Angkor Golf Resort on a sponsor’s ticket.
“I have been working very intensively on my golf swing, overall game, health, physique and a disciplined, professional approach to my lifestyle for over two months now. I am healthy and really enthusiastic about my professional future in golf,” said Haig.
“I want to compete at the very highest level in the game and with my top class team, I believe that I can. Consequently, I have developed a five-year plan with my team targeted at my success.”
A debilitating neck injury saw him being sidelined for most of 2011 but Haig also conceded that the early success in his career resulted in unwanted distractions which led to his dip in form.
“In respect to my tour wins in 2006 and 2007, I do think that the public might reflect that I was only 20 years old when I won the Johnnie Walker Classic. I was young and have had to grow up with the media spotlight on me for most of the time thereafter. It is undoubtedly complicated to grow up whilst trying to compete at the highest level and I found it difficult to play my best golf with so many off course distractions, both commercial and social,” said Haig, who is managed now by Titanium Sports Group and coached by Adam McKinlay.
“The break from the game in 2011 did me so much good, and I believe that, with my team in place, the future looks so very promising. I am ready to play seriously and to compete at the highest possible level. I intend to give my golf career my total, more mature and wholly professional focus, both mentally and physically.
“The HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic is my first major tournament of my comeback and I expect to play well. I do not enter tournaments unless I think I can do well in them. I want to commit to playing golf in Asia as much as I can in 2012.”
Haig’s return to top-class action will be met by a strong line-up at the Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort.
Six of the top-10 players on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit will feature in the HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic.
Thailand’s Prom Meesawat will be the highest ranked player in the field at third place on the rankings followed by countrymen Chapchai Nirat, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Chawalit Plaphol, Bangladeshi Siddikur and Singaporean Mardan Mamat.