Golf

Consistency is key to winning AAC, says Singapore golfer Abdul Hadi

Talented Singaporean golfer, 23, believes that steady play and course familiarity mean more than rankings

If there is one thing the recent Ryder Cup proved, it is that rankings mean little in a major golf competition.

Six of the world's top 10 players, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, come from the United States.

But the Americans suffered a whipping at last week's matchplay event in France, leaving them licking their wounds in one of the competition's most one-sided contests.

Amid that backdrop, there is credence in what the top-ranked player for this week's Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championship, Lee Min Woo, said this week at Sentosa's New Tanjong course, for which his Australian team members are all ranked in the world's top 100.

Said the No. 9 world-ranked amateur, who is also the brother of LPGA star golfer Lee Min Jee: "Obviously, we're all ranked in the top 100 this week.

"But it's a hard one, really. At the end of the day, it's who is the best player at the end of the week. Rankings don't really mean anything, I guess. It's all about who plays well for the four days."

That statement comes as a soothing consolation for Singapore's 23-year-old Abdul Hadi Uda Thith, ranked around the 300s, who said: "I am very familiar with the course, having played on it many times over the past three months.

"The course conditions are great, the set-up is excellent with tip-top fairways and well-manicured and shaped greens.

"The tournament atmosphere is fabulous because of the magnitude of the event. I am going to embrace some moments and enjoy my rounds.

"Hopefully, I will do well as it is anybody's game, with the player who can string four good rounds coming out tops."

Hadi, who completed his national service commitments and has been in the game for 20 years (having been introduced to it by his golfing dad Uda Thith), is bent on doing well as he hopes to turn professional after the tournament.

This will be his fifth outing in the competition, having previously taken part in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017, with his tied-17th placing last year in New Zealand being his best showing.

Leading Singapore's charge will be the well-travelled No. 1 local Gregory Foo, 25.

Joining the world No. 101 player and Hadi are Joshua Ho, Low Wee Jin, Lucius Toh, Donovan Lee, and latest additions Andre Chong and Ryan Wong (because of two late pullouts).

Foo goes into the championship brimming with confidence, having finished tied-eighth at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August and joint-19th at the World Amateur Team Championships in Dublin last month.

"I am feeling great. I am feeling very confident. This is the best I have been playing this year and I am just waiting to tee it up," said Foo, who has featured in seven of the nine editions of the championship.

Australia, which had produced previous winners such as Antonio Murdaca (2014) and Curtis Luck (2016), start as favourites. Lee aside, they have David Micheluzzi (No. 13), Zach Murray (27), Dylan Perry (32), Shae Wools-Cobb (39) and Blake Windred (55).

If one of the Australian boys goes on to win the championship, he will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Adam Scott and try to become the next US Masters champion.

The AAC winner earns an invitation to the US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and a place in the British Open at Royal Portrush next year, provided he retains his amateur status.

The runner(s)-up will gain a spot in the British Open qualifying series.

The other fancied players are from Japan (including Asian Games champion Keita Nakajima), China and New Zealand.

Andrew Johnson, the general manager and director of agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club, said: "We have prepared the course the same way we'd prepare for a US$7 million (S$9.6m) Singapore Open.

"We started preparing for this nearly six months ago with a fertility plan guiding it to this week.

"I am sure when it is challenged this week, it will not just feel like a professional event, it will also play like a professional event.

"We are playing it as a par-70 rather than a par-72. Holes 13 and 8 are going to be long par-fours. We think it will strengthen the course."

Johnson added that the biggest challenge are the greens.

He said: " They are all redan-shaped and designed like they are up in the air with false fronts, backs and sides.

"They are not steep in contours, but they have subtle movements and you have to be really good at reading those. The champion will have to be a strategic thinker."


FYI

What: Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC)

When: Today to Sunday

Where: Sentosa Golf Club, New Tanjong course

Who: Top amateur golfers such as Australia's Lee Min Woo (world No. 9), David Micheluzzi (13) and China's Andy Zhang (15) will be in action. Singapore is represented by players such as Gregory Foo, Joshua Ho and Abdul Hadi.

Entry to the AAC is free. For details, visit www.AACgolf.com.

Golf