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  1. #1
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    Phukets Annual Johnny Walker Classic

    Favorites struggle in Johnny Walker Classic opener

    By Oliver Bates

    THALANG: The first day of play at the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic produced some surprised leaders as the favorites coming into the event struggled with challenging fairways at the Blue Canyon Country Club.

    The morning produced a string of early birdies as Australian Brad Kennedy carded eight on his way to the lead with 65, which was closely matched by Englishman Graeme Storm and former Masters champion Mike Weir, who both recorded 66.

    Storm holed his second shot on the 10th for a rare eagle followed by another impressive eagle on the 11th by Weir.

    The tri-sanctioned event also produced some interesting groups, as the top Asian players competed against the world’s best. The tournament is also remarkable for the strong showing of young players coming up in the ranks.

    The big names, and expected leaders, had a mixed day. South African Ernie Els struggled to 39 (+3) before recovering with five birdies on the way to a mediocre 73.

    Fellow South African Retief Goosen looked his usual cool self and shot a solid 68, while Australian Adam Scott had problems off the tee early on, before he found his groove on the 9th with a great eagle.

    Jeev Milkha Singh, from India, continues to impress with his unorthodox swing and amazing powers of recovery. His wild hook off the 3rd tee resulted in a great par, which he then followed with an eagle at 9 and birdies at holes 11, 12 and 15 to card an overall 67.

    Englishman Paul Casey left a few shots on the course and returned a modest 71. Casey was impressive with his power off the tee, causing some Blue Canyon members to turn pale when they realized how far down the fairway he was.

    Richard Lee, the winner at the Thai Airways Open (Blue Canyon 2005) looks like a good outside bet after he opened with a 67. The New Zealander’s 5-under round included a 7 at the par-5 hole 6, which proved to be a difficult hole for most players. Throughout the day there were several bogeys and three putts – and some bad language – at the 6th.

    The par 3s on this golf course always provide great drama, with the 14th, the feature hole, played at 196 yards to an island green. This hole is not for the faint-hearted and will provide a stern test for all players coming down the stretch. The Sunday pin position will also be cruel and will add to the excitement.

    Other late scores included a steady 69 from Scotsman Colin Montgomery, and 67 (-5) from both Greame McDowell, from Northern Ireland, and Aussie Scott Gardiner.

    There was also a great birdie on the 18th from Peter Hanson of Sweden to leave him with a solid round of 66, and only one off the lead after the first day.

    This is the sixth time the Classic has been played in Thailand since 1990, and the conditions in Phuket will likely prove a major factor in the coming days. A combination of slick greens and thick rough will provide a good test for players, especially if the Phuket coastal wind starts blowing strong.

    Also, to combat new technology, there are new tees on holes 1, 3, 5, 8 and 14, raising the tournament yardage from 7,099 to 7,203.

    Play will continue tomorrow through Sunday.

    Leaderboard – Day 1 (par 72):

    65 Brad Kennedy

    66 Peter Hanson

    66 Stephen Gallacher

    66 Mike Weir

    66 Graeme Storm

    67 Graeme McDowell

    67 Jeev Milkha Singh

    67 Richard Lee

    67 Scott Gardiner

    Oliver Bates is the Teaching Professional at Loch Palm Golf Course. He has lived on Phuket for more than six years.

    Phuket Gazette

    Johnny Walker Classic: Haig matches course record, Wilson leads

    By Oliver Bates

    PHUKET: The second day of the Johnnie Walker Classic saw a reversal of fortunes for the top players as Englishman Oliver Wilson took the lead at -10, while South African Anton Haig equaled Greg Norman’s course record with a 8-under round of 64, leaving him in second place going into the playoffs.

    Today’s play saw some wild shots and high scores. The cut line to continue into the playoffs landed at an even par, and notable players that failed to qualify included Paul Casey, Ian Woosnam, Prayad Marsaeng, Nick Dougherty and Prom Meesawat.

    Early starter Jeev Milkha Singh had a inconsistent round. Starting on the 10th, tee he birdied the 440-yard 12th to move six under, then finished the nine with a double bogey on the difficult 17th.

    Singh followed that with a treble bogey on the 18th and finished his front nine in 40 shots to fall back to -1. He then regained composure and rolled in four birdies on his back nine to return to -5.

    The round of the day belonged to 20-year-old Haig. He rattled in an eagle and seven birdies to lie at -9 for the tournament, but the highlight of his round was a drive on the par-4 13th, which he followed by sinking the putt for a great eagle.

    Canadian Mike Weir found problems on the front nine, and only a spectacular eagle on the 9th spared him, leaving him at a four-over 40, back to -2 overall.

    Local Thai favorite Thongchai Jaidee also eagled the 9th and added 4 birdies to card, leaving him with 68 on the day and an overall -5 for the tournament. It’s been great to see the Thai players this week, some very impressive swings with great short games.

    The future looks bright for Thai golf, as Phuket-born Sati Hongyok showed his potential. At 22, he will benefit from the experience and sure to be a name to watch in the future.

    The late starters also began to make a move as Englishman Oliver Wilson mounted a charge on the back nine. His eagled both the par fives and fired an impressive birdie at the tough 14th.

    His only dropped shot was on the 18th, where he holed a brave putt for bogey after playing his second shot out of the water hazard. His round total of 66 leaves him at -10, sitting one shot clear at the top of the leaderboard.

    Oliver said that he, like most players, was finding the course and the weather a very good test. He explained his hard work on the mental side of the game was paying off, an area most golfers could improve on. Fitness could also play a key role over the weekend with high temperatures predicted to continue.

    The leaderboard is a healthy mix of all players. We have some experienced players such as Retief Goosen (-8), Lian-Wei Zhang (-6), Colin Montgomerie (-5) chasing the young leaders of Wilson (-10) and Haig (-9), which should make for an exciting weekend of play.

    World number 2 Adam Scott, from Australia, returned a 69 to finish at -1 for the tournament, while crowd favorite South African Ernie Els recovered with a solid 70 to finish at -1.


    -10 Oliver Wilson

    -9 Anton Haig

    -8 James Nitties

    -8 Retief Goosen

    -7 Richard Lee

    Oliver Bates is the Teaching Professional at Loch Palm Golf Course. He has lived on Phuket for more than six years.

    Phuket Gazette

  2. #2
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    Anton Haig wins Johnnie Walker Classic

    Anton Haig wins Johnnie Walker Classic

    By Oliver Bates

    PHUKET: The final day of the Johnnie Walker Classic lived up to all expectations as South African Anton Haig won his first Johnnie Walker Classic in a dramatic playoff.

    Twenty-year-old Haig joined the elite of Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo to become a Johnnie Walker Champion.

    Haig’s sudden-death playoff victory over Oliver Wilson and Richard Sterne was spectacular as he birdied the 18th hole in regular play and followed up with a birdie in the playoff to take away the US$404,993 (13.9 million baht) first prize.

    Sterne and Wilson tied the playoff hole as well, each earning US$213,688 (7.2 million baht).

    The challenge from the big names failed to materialize in the last day of play; Retief Goosen shot 70 (-2) for a total of -10 while Colin Montgomerie closed with another under-par round of 71 to finish on -8.

    Following his poor second round, Canadian Mike Weir was impressive with 68 and 67 over the weekend to finish in fifth place with -9.

    The spectators were treated to some great golf today when Haig and his long hitting produced a key shot under pressure on the par-4 13th. There were roars from the crowd as he hit his tee shot over the pin to 10ft, setting up a great birdie and a grandstand finish.

    The challenging par 3s at the Blue Canyon Country Club course played a part in the drama. Both Haig and Stern bogeyed the difficult 17th, and a par from Wilson made the 18th very exciting for the growing Phuket crowd.

    The course record was equaled again, for the fourth time in the tournament, with Indian Gaurav Ghei shooting 64, which included an eagle on the 1st.

    Final Results

    -13 Anton Haig

    -13 Oliver Wilson

    -13 Richard Sterne

    (Haig won first playoff hole)

    -10 Retief Goosen

    -9 Mike Weir

    -8 Ernie Els

    -8 David Frost

    -8 Ghei Gaurav

    -8 Colin Montgomerie

    Oliver Bates is the Teaching Professional at Loch Palm Golf Course. He has lived on Phuket for more than six years.

    Phuket Gazette

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