Tamsui, Chinese Taipei: Local star Lu Wei-chih will defend the Mercuries Taiwan Masters title like it was his first win when the US$800,000 event gets underway on Thursday.
Lu will return to the scene of his victory again where he defied all odds to win the Asian Tour event after going through a brain surgery in mid-2012 to remove a non-malignant tumour.
It was his fourth win on the region’s premier Tour but most meaningful as he struggled to hit golf balls after recuperating from surgery. He hopes to repeat his win again and become only the second player after Lu Wen-teh to win the event for the fourth time.
Lu will face strong challenges from the elite field which includes former Order of Merit champions Thaworn Wiratchant, Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, Liang Wen-chong, Arjun Atwal and Juvic Pagunsan.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green, ranked third on the Order of Merit, Poom Saksansin of Thailand, Jazz Janewattananond, Prayad Marksaeng and Richard T. Lee of Canada, who won a fortnight ago will also feature in the event.
Talented Filipino Miguel Tabuena hopes to continue his impressive form at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters where he finished second last year. With two top-five results so far this season, Tabuena will be aiming for a second Asian Tour title this week.
Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand will have unfinished business at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters where he held the lead for three rounds before settling for sixth place. Playing in his eighth season on the Asian Tour, the 24-year-old is still searching for a first win.
Did you know?
- Lu Wei-chih was one of the most consistent players on the Asian Tour before being diagnosed with a tumour in his brain. In his first practice session after his surgery, Lu fainted after hitting 100 golf balls.
- He had given up hope of playing professional golf again but was pushed by his family and friends. When he won last year, he dedicated the win to them.
- He said regular exercises and traditional Chinese medication has improved his stamina.
- Lu won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2004, 2011 and 2016. Lu Wen-teh is the only player to win the event on four occasions in 1994, 1996, 2007 and 2008.
- Since his victory last year, Lu has not recorded a top-10 result and hopes to turn the corner on his home course. He lives next to the Taiwan Golf and Country Club.
- Tabuena is one of the most talented players to emerge from the Philippines. He has a solid track record in Chinese Taipei where he finished runner-up on three occasions. He also finished tied fifth at the inaugural Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei earlier this year.
- The Filipino hopes to continue his momentum after enjoying a solid tied 19th result in Japan last week.
- Panuphol is enjoying one of his finest seasons on the Asian Tour. He has two tied fourth results so far this year and is currently ranked 13th on the Order of Merit.
Lu Wei-chih (Tpe)
I can’t believe it has been a year! It feels like yesterday. I am looking forward to playing at home again. My fitness has improved a lot over the past one year. The course condition is pretty good now as well. The previous typhoons have avoided us so the course is in good shape now.
The win last year felt like my very first victory as a professional. It’s like I have never won before. I have been through so much with the surgery and all so that win was truly memorable and meaningful for me. I never expect myself to be able to win again.
The last few holes last year were amazing. My heart was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness coming down the stretch. I felt like I was still in my early twenties and looking for my first win. My sponsors and my family have been exceptionally supportive of me all these years and even after my surgery.
I really wanted to win it for them and I did it. I was driven to achieve that for them. That win gave me a lot of confidence as well. My mental game is stronger too. To win it under that kind of pressure is not easy. To win it after recovering from the surgery is even tougher.
I think that has made me a stronger person today, be it in my game or as a person. Next week, I will take it as just another tournament for me. No targets, no expectations. I am taking one week and one tournament at a time right now and not thinking too far ahead.
Miguel Tabuena (Phi)
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters is a very special tournament for me. I’ve played well there many times. I love the course and my game is in good shape at the moment. I had some bad breaks this season but my game is trending in the right direction.
The Taiwan Golf and Country Club is not a low scoring course. On that course, par is sometimes a good score and the layout of the course suits my game. Coming into this year, I knew it would be a transition because I’ve tried new equipment and golf balls. Hopefully I get it sorted soon.
Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha)
I’ve had good results in Chinese Taipei and I really look forward returning there. I’m striking the ball well but my putting hasn’t been as sharp as I would like it to be. Hopefully after making some changes I will enjoy another good week.
The course is narrow but it is not the longest course on the Asian Tour. You just need to keep the ball in play and I’ve been striking the ball well so far this year. Hopefully I can hit it closer to the hole!
The season has been good and I’m feeling good about the game. I just need to hole more putts!