Young Rattanon readies for title defence

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 Rattanon Wannasrichan of Thailand.

Young Thai talent Rattanon Wannasrichan hopes to overcome his putting woes as he aims for a successful title defence at the US$160,000 Taifong Open which starts on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Thai, who claimed his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory by one shot last year, will be part of the elite 144-man cast vying for glory at the highly-rated Taifong Golf and Country Club, located in Chang Hwa city.

"I have been working on my game back home. I think I know this golf course well enough, having won the tournament last year. The game's feeling good now and I am confident," said Rattanon, who has notched four top-10s in six starts on the ADT so far this season.

Recalling his winning memories from last year where he came from behind to clinch the title, Rattanon reckoned he needs to light up his putter before he can contend for his second ADT title.

"I shot a very good final round last year to win the tournament. I have a lot of good memories here. I have struggled with my putter before coming here but it's getting better. Hopefully I can get the putter hot again and my hard work will pay off this week," added the baby-faced Thai.

Rattanon will be joined by countryman and Order of Merit leader Pavit Tangkamolprasert, Tour winners Gavin Green of Malaysia, American John Michael O'Toole, George Gandranata of Indonesia and Japan's Shunya Takeyasu in the richest event on the ADT schedule this season.

They will face a strong local challenge spearheaded by Asian Tour stalwart Lin Wen-tang, who is chasing for an Olympic spot, Lu Wei-chih, Hsieh Chi-hsien, Hung Chien-yao and Chan Shih-chang, who holds a total of five ADT titles which include the 2014 Taifong Open.

Having enjoyed a recent trip back home to Alabama, O'Toole is feeling refreshed and upbeat ahead of his challenge for a second ADT win.

"The game's going pretty good. I had a couple of weeks off since the last ADT event. I went back home for a while and spent some quality time with my family and friends. It was my first time back in six months so it was good to see them again. They have been very encouraging and supportive. Hopefully I can secure a good result this week," said the 23-year-old American.

Chan, who secured his 2016 Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School earlier this year, hopes to turn the corner as he struggled to hit top form this season where he has yet to finish inside top-20 on the ADT.

"It's been slightly more than a year since I last won. I was disappointed to miss the halfway cut on the Asian Tour last week as I just can't get the putter going. The focus will be on my putting this week so hopefully I can play well," said the 30-year-old Chan.

"This tournament means a lot to me. This is where I claimed my first professional title and I always feel good coming back," added Chan, who has won the tournament on the domestic circuit in 2010 before winning again when the tournament joined the ADT schedule in 2014.

Other notable players to feature in the event includes Thailand's Panuwat Muenlek, who has won twice this season, India's Chikkarangappa. S, Australian Marcus Both, Sri Lanka's Mithun Perera and Ben Leong of Malaysia.

The Taifong Open, which is the 17th leg of the ADT schedule and the Tour's third stop in Chinese Taipei this season, will be the last event for players to boost their OWGR points and move inside the 60-man field on the Olympic rankings.

The winner of the Taifong Open will take home a prize purse of US$28,000 and receive six OWGR points. The top-five finishers on the Merit rankings at the end of this season will secure Asian Tour cards for 2017.

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