Relieved, revived, running on empty

Just two months before the Asian Tour staged the inaugural International Series Morocco, the North African nation had grabbed the attention of the golfing world when their very own Ines Laklalech won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France – becoming the first Moroccan, Arab and North African woman to win on the Ladies European Tour.

It was a landmark moment for the continent and in many ways a perfectly timed Amuse-Bouche for the Asian Tour’s first visit to North Africa.

The Tour did not know what to expect when heading to Rabat but after spending a week there the overwhelming desire by the membership to return to Morocco’s capital city summed up everyone’s feelings.

The warm hospitality and colonial charm of the city and Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, the famous host venue, were welcomed by all and sundry, especially a certain Jazz Janewattananond.

The Thai star had not won a title since his memorable 2019 season when he claimed the Asian Tour Order of Merit following four eye-catching victories, the last of those being the Thailand Masters in December.
Jazz Janewattananond’s victory in Morocco was his first win on the Asian Tour in three years. Picture by Ian Walton/Asian Tour.

That was supposed to be the season that launched his career but proved to be the start of one of his most difficult periods, not helped by the many disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the lead up to Morocco, Jazz had been playing week in, week out, with few breaks, searching for the form that brought him so much success three years before.

He certainly found what he was looking for in Rabat when he won the tournament with his comments four weeks later at the season-ending Indonesian Masters, where he was also in contention before finishing joint sixth, summed up his feelings.

“I’m fresh now because I had three weeks off before coming in here, but when I played Morocco, or the weeks before that, I was so out of it,” he said.

“Seriously like in Morocco I was such a blur, I still don’t know what happened. And I walked home with a trophy so that was pretty lucky. So now after three weeks, I feel so much better, I feel like a new man.”

With this in mind it is hard to fathom how Jazz found the energy to win in Morocco by storming through at the very end with an sensational eagle, birdie finish.

On a dramatic Sunday afternoon, he came out of the chasing pack and closed with a fine six-under-par 67 to finish on 12 under and beat Canadian Richard T. Lee by one stroke.

Lee, who missed a 16-foot birdie putt on the last to force a play-off, shot a 70 while Spaniard rookie David Puig fired a 73 to finish third, a stroke further back.

Jazz, playing in the third from last group having started the day four shots behind overnight leader Puig, burst through for an unexpected victory thanks to a stunning five-under-par back nine.

He made birdie on 11 and 15 but it was the short and driveable par-four 17th that proved to be pivotal. Lee, playing in the final group, had appeared to be in control and on course to win for much of the back nine but that all changed when Jazz found the green with his tee shot on 17 and holed a 20-foot eagle putt.  The Thai golfer then drew level with Lee after holing a five-footer for birdie on the par-five 18th.
Jazz enjoyed the morale support of having his girlfriend, now wife, Sarina Schmidt, caddie for him. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

To the surprise of everyone, Lee then dropped a shot on 17, the easiest hole on the course, after finding trees off the tee before failing to draw level with Jazz on the last.

“It feels amazing. It’s been a long journey and I’m just so happy to end the year on a high note,” said Jazz, whose girlfriend, now wife, and fellow professional golfer Sarina Schmidt, half Thai and half German, caddied for him.

“I had three holes left and I wasn’t even nearly at the top. I just had a really good finish – everything was really quick. When that last putt dropped I just felt so relieved, the waiting game begun, and now I’m here!”

It was the seventh Asian Tour victory of his career, and in terms of confidence building one of his most important.

He added: “This was my first time in Morocco and the city of Rabat has been amazing – the culture, the food. the people, everything. I heard a lot about this golf course already from people I play with, and I knew it was going to be hard, but it’s exceeded all my expectations. I’ve been out nine weeks in a row and I’m tired now and my back’s hurting, but I came in with an open mind to exploring Morocco and Rabat, and I think that helped me win, because I didn’t come in with high expectations.”

Lee had been attempting to claim his third title on Tour and his first since 2017 but had to settle for his second runner-up finish of the season as he was also second in the International Series Singapore in August.

“I looked at the leaderboard on 17 and then saw that Jazz was at 12 under and finished his round. So, I mean, I just wanted to make birdie on the last hole to try to tie and make the playoff,” said Lee, who led at the halfway mark thanks to a second day 65.

“I bogeyed the first hole with a three putt, just started off bad and then came back with four birdies in a row from six to nine and felt the rhythm going pretty well. Then just an unforced error on 17 on the tee shot, got unlucky and got behind the tree and had no shot to the green. So, I mean, it caused me to make a bogey and just… stuff happens, you know.”

Posts same category

Golf Travel Tips – Q & A

Weighing both the pros and cons of bringing your own golf clubs to Indochina, my advice is that if your trip is mainly for golf, you will be happier using your own full set of...

Taylor Pendrith clinches first PGA Tour title at The CJ Cup Byron Nelson 2024

Taylor Pendrith clinches first PGA Tour title at The CJ Cup Byron Nelson 2024

Tiger Woods Announces Jupiter Links GC Team for TGL 2025

Tiger Woods Announces Jupiter Links GC Team for TGL 2025

View All