MEESAWAT, HIRATSUKA, LAM AND KNUTZON EARN OPEN PLACES AT IFQ ASIA

 IFQ Asia

For Immediate Publication

MEESAWAT, HIRATSUKA, LAM AND KNUTZON EARN OPEN PLACES AT IFQ ASIA

25 February 2011, Chonburi, Thailand:Thailand’s Prom Meesawat earned his maiden appearance at The Open after winning International Final Qualifying Asia on Friday at Amata Spring Country Club, near Bangkok.

A one-time Asian Tour winner, Meesawat shot a superb second-round, seven-under-par 65 for a two-day aggregate of 12-under-par 132, to accompany Japanese veteran Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing and American Jason Knutzon into The Open at Royal St George’s in July.

It was a welcome return to form for the former world amateur junior champion, Meesawat, whose form dipped after twice finishing in the top-10 of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s my first Major. I played very good the past two days. My driving and everything else was very good. I’ve been working hard with my coach and psychologist and I need to thank them.

“My friends have been encouraging me all along when my form wasn’t good,” said the 26-year-old. “It’s a good comeback for me. It’s a good feeling. I played to my strength on this course. I knew which holes to be cautious. To qualify for the oldest Major, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Hiratsuka, whose three victories in Asia last season included two titles in Thailand, earned his second trip to The Open with a best-of-the-day 64. Fifth on the Merit rankings last year, he came home in 30, thanks to a streak of six birdies in seven holes, to book his first trip to The Open for seven years, when he finished tied-36th at Royal Troon.

“I played well despite my body condition being not so good. But on the back nine, I played fantastic golf. I hit it close with my irons for some easy birdies,” said Hiratsuka, 39. “I normally am not nervous, but today I felt a bit uneasy. I’ve not played in The Open since 2004, so it is good to qualify again.”

Lam, meanwhile, secured his third appearance with a bogey-free 67; a round which featured five birdies.

“I was meant to play Pebble Beach but I’ll go over to The Open anytime!” he explained. “Playing in The Open has been one of the highlights of my career and I’m looking forward to it again. I drove the ball really good this week and didn’t miss a fairway in two days which was the key. I think I’ll go there to enjoy the week and try to make the cut again.

“I love playing links courses. We don’t get anything like that in this part of the world and that’s how golf was meant to be played,” he added.

Knutzon, whose only Major appearance to date came at the 2003 US Open, closed with a 67, and then endured a nervous wait for t