Felipe Aguilar made history in 2008 by becoming the first player from Chile to capture a European Tour title. Twelve months later, the 34 year old believes that the thrilling memories of victory can inspire him to retain the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open on the paradise island of Bali.
Aguilar made the 24 hour trip from Santiago to Australia last week for the Johnnie Walker Classic, where he played superbly to finish joint runner-up behind teenage amateur Danny Lee of New Zealand in Perth.
Now, with a week’s acclimatisation behind him, the Chilean is ready for his title defence as The Race to Dubai touches down in an exotic location for an event which has produced first time European Tour winners in Thaworn Wiratchant (2005), Simon Dyson (2006), Mikko Ilonen (2007) and Aguilar.
A birdie at the final hole at Cenkareng Golf Club last year secured Aguilar’s breakthrough moment with a one stroke victory over India’s Jeev Milkha Singh. After spending the winter – his summer – at home in Chile, Aguilar hit the ground running with a 16 under par total of 272 at the Vines last week to get his season under way in some style.
“It's always good to show up to a tournament having played well the week before. I'm very looking forward to it. I want to go back and defend my title and I feel very good having practised the last two months.
“Our summer is full going to the ocean, practicing, going to the gym and spending time with the family. It was something I needed after spending such a lot of time in Europe
“I'm playing this week, next week and then I'm playing a PGA event in Puerto Rico, and after that, I'm coming back to Europe and Asia. I'll be playing 24 events this year.”
Aguilar’s win saw Chile become the 35th country to be represented among the list of European Tour winners, while Ilonen’s success a year earlier had allowed Finland to make it 34 nations. The Finn is in the field for his attempt at a repeat victory along with the two other past champions, Wiratchant of Thailand and Englishman Dyson.
Wiratchant, the inaugural winner in 2005, became the first player to win a European Tour event shooting 63 in three of his four rounds. He recorded scores of 63-63-66-63 for a winning aggregate of 255 (-25). However that spectacular scoring did not figure in the record books due to preferred lies being in operation.
Measuring over 7500 yards from the championship tees, the par 72 New Kuta Golf Club overlooks some of the best surfing breaks in Bali and is the island’s first championship course. Designed by Golf Plan architects Ronald Fream, David Dale and Kevin Ramsey, the course is a dramatic links-style layout and was recently certified as the first environmentally friendly ‘Laureate Golf Course’ in Indonesia.
Elsewhere, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, the joint most prolific winner in Asia, is in the field after withdrawing from the Johnnie Walker Classic due to illness.
A hugely popular figure with golf fans in Jakarta, Jaidee was the first Thai golfer to win a European Tour event, capturing the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2004 and successfully defending the title a year later. Jaidee was the first Thai to play in all four Major Championships and topped the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit in 2001 and 2004.
“Although I missed out playing at the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open last year, I am looking forward to returning to Indonesia at the new golf course, having visited Bali a few times in the past,” he said. “Playing in Indonesia is always special thanks to the support I get here. I’m looking forward to the competition.”
Sweden’s Daniel Chopra, a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour, returns to a country he knows well from his childhood. Born in Stockholm, raised in India and now based in the USA, Chopra is one of the most travelled golfers in the game having played on ten different golf Tours in four different continents.
The Swede has won 14 titles around the world including two US PGA Tour victories at the 2007 Ginn sur Mer Classic and the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship. Last year, Chopra also finished in the top ten at the SAS Masters, the MasterCard Masters, and the UBS Hong Kong Open on The European Tour.
"Returning to the Indonesia Open brings back great memories for me – especially playing and practicing at Pondok Indah Golf Club in Jakarta when I was still a junior golfer,” said Chopra.
“Bali is certainly a spectacular place to play golf, experience a truly beautiful landscape and a culture rich with history, the arts, great food and wonderful people. I am very much looking forward to returning to Indonesia and to playing at the New Kuta Golf Resort for the first time.”