Stolz zeroes in on Thailand Open defence

Andre Stolz

Reigning OneAsia number one Andre Stolz aims to kick-start a flagging season by successfully defending the Thailand Open title he won in some style last year.

The veteran Australian, whose impressive CV includes victories on the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and the Japan Tour as well as OneAsia, triumphed in an enthralling head-to-head battle with local hero Prayad Marksaeng.

Stolz, who won OneAsia’s season-opening U.S. $1 million Indonesia PGA Championship in 2011, fired a final round nine-under-par 63 to beat Prayad by two shots.

After some disappointing results on the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour) this year, Stolz is hoping that a return to the happy hunting ground of Suwan Golf Country Club from August 9-12 will result in an immediate upswing in his fortunes.

“I’ve defended a couple of times but at a different course so I’m sure the buzz will be a lot different when I eventually do it,” said Stolz.

“I always try to get a video of my victories and I do watch them every now and then mainly to look at pre-shot routines and the like. It’s always a good thing to relive those winning feelings too.

“I have defended in a lot of the smaller tournaments I’ve won but it doesn’t feel the same I’m sure.”

The elite field faced a difficult set-up at Suwan Golf Country Club last year and Stolz was surprised that he won with an astonishing total of 22-under-par.

“The rough was so deep at Suwan last year nobody expected the scoring to be that good. I’m sure we could play the course set up the same and 15 under might win. It was just one of those weeks,” he commented.

“I’ve been driving the ball a lot straighter than I did in the old days so that was step number one last year. I was also pretty dialled in with my mid and short irons so I gave myself plenty of birdie chances.

“I was pretty annoyed with my putting the first two days — I couldn’t hole a thing. Then on the weekend I felt like I had 18 putts each day.”

The 42-year-old Stolz said that he was in the zone on the final day and sensed that he was going to win.

“Sunday was strange. I had it in my head that it was my tournament to win and I basically did whatever it took to win. I’m sure if Prayad kept making birdies I would have too, it was just that sort of day. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen often enough to me,” he said.

Putting has been Stolz’s Achilles heel for much of his career and he is currently searching for a putter that can help him recreate his weekend blitz at last year’s Thailand Open.

“I’ve really had a lot of putting problems this year and my iron play hasn’t been up to my usual standard. I’ve had three broomsticks, two belly putters and four different short putters in my bag during tournament play. I’ve been searching a lot you could say,” said Stolz, who employed a short putter to such devastating effect in the second half of last season en-route to topping the OneAsia Order of Merit with winnings of US$464,811 from nine events.

“The Nationwide Tour is so competitive you have to play great just to make the cut. Then putting separates everyone after that.”

Next month’s Thailand Open will boast an outstanding international field of players from OneAsia, Europe and Japan.

Thailand’s most decorated golfers — including Thaworn Wiratchant, Prayad Marksaeng, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prom Meesawat — will all bid for honours, along with Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Englishmen David Howell, David Horsey and Richard Finch, who are all multiple winners on the European Tour.

The iconic Shingo Katayama will head a 20-strong posse from the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

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