National Squad member Cameron Smith.
National Squad members Cameron Smith (Queensland) and Jake Higginbottom (New South Wales) head to Japan this week to compete in the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open.
Both players will be making their first appearance at the event.
The pair will join fellow Australian Marcus Fraser, who currently leads the Asian Tour Order of Merit list and will enter the Japan tournament with a narrow US$8,000 advantage over second placed Jbe Kruger of South Africa, followed by an in-form Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who took his winning haul on the Asian circuit to an unprecedented 14 last week.
Fraser, looking to become the first Australian to win the Merit crown, has yet to win a tournament this season but he will arrive in Japan in sensational form following three-top fives including a tied second place finish at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland recently which saw him overhaul long-time leader Kruger. Fraser has earned US$448,710 this year.
The Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour, will offer a prize fund of 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.9 million). It will be staged at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club.
“I look forward to the next few weeks playing in Japan and the big events in Asia. I want to play my minimum in Asia this year like what I’ve done the last couple of years. I finally found some form and it has been a good,” said Fraser, who placed second on the Order of Merit in 2010.
Kruger, winner of the Avantha Masters in India earlier this year, is still hopeful of becoming the first South African to win the Order of Merit and is banking on doing well in Japan again as he finished fourth in the Panasonic Open last year.
“My goal is still the same, which is to win the Order of Merit title. Every week is going to be very important from here. I’m definitely going to play more in Asia in the second half as compared to the first so it’s going to be very hectic and I’m going to take it one week at a time,” said the slightly-built Kruger.