Chan sets his sights on Merit crown

Chan sets his sights on Merit crown

Taiwanese seeks 2nd title in Phuket Series

Taiwan's Chan Shih-chang plays a shot during yesterday's pro-am event ahead of the Laguna Phuket Championship. asian tour PR
Taiwan's Chan Shih-chang plays a shot during yesterday's pro-am event ahead of the Laguna Phuket Championship. asian tour PR

Phuket: Chan Shih-chang, following his victory in the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship last week, is aiming to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title and become the first player from Taiwan to achieve the feat in 27 years.

He moved into second place on the money list and is looking to build on the momentum of last week's win at the US$1 million Laguna Phuket Championship, the second and final leg of the Asian Tour Phuket Series, which tees off today at Laguna Golf Phuket.

"Now that I'm second on the Order of Merit, I am going to try to win the Merit list," said Chan, who received $180,000 in prize money on Sunday.

"There are still a few events to go and it's not easy to win it but now that I have a chance, I will go for it and do my best."

Australian Wade Ormsby, also in the field this week, currently leads the Merit list with earnings of $237,003, Chan is second on $211,775, and 19-year-old South Korean Kim Joo-Hyung sits third with $194,628.

The last player from Chan's homeland to claim the Merit crown was Lin Keng-chi in 1995. "I was struggling with a stiff neck on the first day I got to Phuket. I didn't sleep well and could not quite complete my swing, actually. I felt like I could only go back three quarters and I couldn't hit it hard too," Chan said.

Despite that, he shot a final-round four-under-par 68 to finish on 18-under-par at Blue Canyon and beat two rising stars, Thailand's Sadom Kaewkanjana and Kim, by a shot.

"I felt like I was swinging with a rain jacket on. Thankfully the course last week wasn't too long. As long as I can find the fairway, I'm okay with my second shots and short game, which are my strengths," the Taiwanese said.

It was his first win on the Asian Tour in five years. Both his previous wins came in 2016, first in the King's Cup here in Thailand and then the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup in Japan. He is also a six-time winner on the Asian Development Tour, the last of those coming in 2018.

The cream of the Asian Tour are competing in Phuket, including Australian Scott Hend, a 10-time tour winner, reigning Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand, and Malaysia's Gavin Green.

The Phuket events will be followed by two tournaments being planned in Singapore next month that bring to a conclusion the 2020-21 season.

Uber good for Berry

American Berry Henson, who competes in this week's Laguna Phuket Championship, has been in fine form over the past two weeks with two top-four finishes.

He said being a part-time Uber driver is one of the keys to his success.

"This came up when I was injured in 2016," said the Hua Hin-based golfer, who finished two shots behind the winner Chan in last week's Blue Canyon Phuket Championship to claim joint fourth.

"I always need to rent a car when I am back in the US, and I found an option to rent an Uber vehicle. And I thought this would be good to kill some time and actually raise some money for charity. And I quite enjoyed it.

"And then I kind of beat the system a bit by renting the car but then driving for Uber to pay it off. So now when I go back home, I always do the same. I drive about 20 hours a week and it's like having a free car.

The 43-year-old was in Thailand for a year after the Malaysian Open in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic stopped play on the Asian Tour but went back to the US in March this year and picked up a Uber vehicle and drove it two weeks straight.

Henson, who was tied for third on the All Thailand Golf Tour two weeks ago, is expected to be in contention this week.

He meticulously planned for the restart of the Asian Tour by taking lessons with a number of coaches in the US prior to returning to the region but said Ubering has also helped. "We have found the right formula as far as peeking is concerned and I think driving Uber helped. There is definitely a mental side to that," he said.

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