- Singapore Open
In its formative years, the Singapore Open earned a place in the history books as the tournament that helped build the foundations for the development of competitive golf in Asia. The Lion City’s national Open was part of the continent’s first professional golf tour, the Far East Circuit, joining a small number of championships that were hosted in other countries such as Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The event was included for a few years on the Australasian Tour in the early 1990s then it was co-sanctioned with the European Tour between 2009 and 2012 before becoming a fixture on the Japan Golf Tour in 2016. The following year, it was granted Open Qualifying status, giving up to four non-exempt players entry into the Open championship in Great Britain.
The first edition of the Singapore Open was held at the Island Club course in 1961, the same year that the Singapore Golf Association was formed. Australian Frank Phillips won the inaugural event, leading by 11 strokes after three rounds then sealing the deal after 72 holes with an 8-shot winning margin. That was back when four-round tournaments were played over three days so playing 36 holes on the last day was always a test of endurance.
In an interview before the 50th edition of the championship at Sentosa Golf Club in 2016, Frank Phillips looked back on his victory in a field that included recent Open champions Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson, divulging the fact that he didn’t take the trophy back home with him as it was too expensive to transport on the plane – and he left without it again in 1963 when he captured the title for a second time.
There were other Antipodean winners in the early years of the competition – Ted Ball from Australia in 1964 and Ross Newdick from New Zealand in 1965 – along with a couple of South Africans, in the shape of Brian Wiljkes (1962) and Alan Brookes (1963). All of these tournaments were played on the Bukit course at Singapore Island Country Club as this was the venue for all but two of the Singapore Opens staged between 1962 and 1987.
Asian golfers dominated the event until the late 1980s, starting with the win for Ben Arda from the Philippines in 1967. Players from Taiwan and Japan lifted the trophy thirteen times during that period and there was also the sight of a Burmese professional named Mya Aye finishing on top of the leaderboard at the end of the 1981 championship, winning by 2 strokes from Lu His-chuen, the Taiwanese champion from two years previous.
Half a dozen golfers from Australia and the United States were successful during the 1990s and, without being disrespectful, most commentators would have considered them to be journeymen professionals – how surprising must it then have been then for the 1998 champion at the SAFRA Resort, Shaun Micheel, to go on five years later to win a Major at the PGA Championship in Oak Hill Country Club?
It would take until 2020 before another American would triumph in the Singapore Open, with Matt Kuchar holding off a strong challenge by Justin Rose on the last day to win by three strokes. Earlier in the new millennium, Adam Scott secured the first of three victories on the Serapong course at Sentosa in 2005 and the competition has been held there ever since.
Englishman Ian Poulter became the first European name inscribed on the trophy in 2009 and there have been another three winners from that continent since: Spaniard Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño in a 2011 playoff; Italian Matteo Manassero in another playoff the following year; and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia in 2018, when rounds of 66-70-66-68 gave him a five shot winning margin over the field for his sixth Asian title.
Until the 54th edition of the Singapore Open in 2020, forty-three of the championships had been held at either Singapore Island Country Club or Sentosa Golf Club. You’ll not find the National Service Club (which hosted in 1998) listed below as it’s not currently included in our Singapore listings.
The old Royal Island Club course (which hosted the first Open in 1961) no longer exists and the Jurong Country Club course (where the Open was staged in 1997 and 2001) is now closed.
Singapore Open Top 100 Leaderboard
B-NL Challenge Trophy