Teenage star Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat will be aiming to book his place in The 150th Open at the age of 14 when the SMBC Singapore Open takes place at Sentosa Golf Club.
Although he is still an amateur, Chantananuwat has already made a significant impression in the professional ranks.
As well as posting three top-five finishes on the All Thailand Golf Tour towards the end of 2021, including a runner-up berth at the Singha Laguna Phuket Open, the Thai youngster finished tied-15th on his Asian Tour debut at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship in November, finishing the week with a 65.
Chantananuwat, who studies at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok, then produced an outstanding performance last week in his first professional event outside of his home country, coming third in the inaugural Singapore International.
A repeat of that placing this week would earn Chantananuwat the enticing prize of a spot in The 150th Open, with four places at St Andrews available to those not already exempt who finish in the top 12 and ties.
“I think (my chances) are pretty decent if I play good golf,” Chantananuwat was quoted as saying by the SMBC Singapore Open’s official website.
“I played Sentosa once and, like Tanah Merah (the venue for The Singapore International), it’s a really hard golf course. It’s challenging, and you need to play some real good golf.
“So I think if I hit my driver straight, like I did for the majority of The Singapore International, I have a decent chance."
In an interview with the Asian Tour, Chantananuwat added: "I think my goal and mindset for this week is hopefully to try to win. I'll try my best.
"If I don't win, I'm going to try to at least finish where I did last week and finish top three or top four, so I get to play The Open, so that's really exciting."
Chantananuwat, whose golfing idol is compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, has been tipped for greatness for some time, having shone throughout his junior career.
When he retained his Faldo Series Hua Hin title in December 2020, three-time Champion Golfer Sir Nick Faldo said: “TK is continuing to improve and clearly has a bright future in the game.”
Another teenager, 19-year-old Joohyung Kim, will also be high on confidence and motivation as he prepares for the Asian Tour’s season-ending event.
After winning The Singapore International to claim his fourth professional title, Kim tops the Tour’s Order of Merit and is aiming to seal top spot at Sentosa, as well as qualify for The Open at St Andrews.
He finished fourth in the SMBC Singapore Open in 2020 to earn a place in The 149th Open field, but subsequently withdrew due to international travel requirements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Missing out has been a big motivation factor for me,” said Kim. “It's the 150th Open this year and I really want to be there."
The highest-ranked player in the field this week will be Paul Casey, who is already exempt for St Andrews where he is set to make his 19th Open appearance.
Casey is looking to go one better in Singapore this time around, having finished as the runner-up to Jazz Janewattananond in the 2019 SMBC Singapore Open.
“I love the event, the golf course and the city and I definitely have some unfinished business: I’d love to have my name on that trophy,” said the Englishman, who tied for third in The 139th Open at St Andrews in 2010.
Former SMBC Singapore Open winners Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa and Zaw Moe are among the other notable entrants who will be battling it out to join Casey at The 150th Open, by securing an exemption at the magnificent Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club.
The SMBC Singapore Open has also been won in past years by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar.