Rising stars Shubhankar Sharma and Chikkarangappa S. of India, American Johannes Veerman, Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat will be gunning for their first Asian Tour victory at the Macao Open, which starts on Thursday.

Shubhankar said that his game was in a good shape and he played really well to win on the local circuit held on his home course last week. “It’s been a long while since I last won. It’s good coming in to this week with a win. I played really well at the start of the season and cooled down a little bit in the middle but there are still a lot of important events coming up. I am still hoping to do well and try to contend.”

“This course is very challenging off the tee. You need to position the ball properly and you need to hit it very straight off the tee. That’s one thing I believe all the players will be looking at this week – to position themselves well off the tee and give themselves opportunities for birdies,” he added.

“Ajeetesh (Sandhu)’s victory in Chinese Taipei two weeks ago was very inspiring to me. He is a very good friend of mine so I am happy to see him secure his first win on the Asian Tour. We came from the same town and we have been pretty close for the past few years. He has worked very hard for it. His win has definitely pushed all the players, like myself, to play well as well,” Shubhankar Sharma said.

Meanwhile, Thai hotshot Pavit Tangkamolprasert is hoping to uphold his late King’s honour with a successful title defence at the storied tournament.

The 28-year-old Pavit enjoyed his career best victory yet at the Macau Golf and Country Club 12 months ago, defeating Indian star Anirban Lahiri on the first play-off hole for his breakthrough win on the region’s premier Tour.

Pavit, also a proud graduate of the Asian Development Tour (ADT), is hoping to repeat that win for his late King at the US$500,000 full-field Asian Tour event, as his country prepares for the royal funeral which will take place next week.

Pavit said, “The game’s feeling alright. I am beginning to find some form with my driver now. It’s great to be back here in Macao. It has been exactly a year since the late Thai king passed away. We continue to mourn him back home in Thailand as we prepare for his funeral later this month. I believe he will continue to watch over us from above.”

“I had a week off last week. I went to the gym, did some practice and get my body ready for this week. The memories from my win last year are still vivid in my mind. Last year, we were mourning the death of our King and this week, it feels the same again as we are preparing for his funeral later this month. People are wearing black again in Thailand,” he said, adding, “I didn’t know Anirban Lahiri was on a birdie streak last year. I only knew he was close when I was on the 17. It is good that I didn’t know earlier as that could add pressure on me. I wasn’t expecting much too when I know I am heading into a play-off.