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Griffin has a taste for Thailand

Matthew GriffinHONG KONG, Feb 18 - After a breakthrough year in which he won his first significant professional tournament, Australian Matthew Griffin is hoping 2013 will be even better -- and he is aiming for a flying start at next month's U.S. $1 million Thailand Open.

The March 14 - 17 tournament is sanctioned by both OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO), meaning a win at Thana City Golf & Sports Club will also open doors in the land of the rising sun for the self-confessed Thai food fan.

With the subsequent Indonesian PGA Championship (March 28 - 31) also co-sanctioned by the JGTO -- and the following Volvo China Open (May 2 - 5) a joint venture with the European Tour -- good performances in the first three events of the season could lead to a very lucrative year.

"My goal for 2013 is to contend a little more consistently, and I have set a big focus on the co-sanctioned events as they provide a big opportunity to advance to either Japan or Europe -- which would give me more playing opportunities going forward," said Griffin.

"Winning in Korea showed me that it is possible to win anywhere."

Griffin, 29, won the South Pacific Open Golf Championship in New Caledonia on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2011, but hit the big time with a one-stroke victory at the Charity High1 Resort Open in Korea in September after a somewhat muted first six months of the year.

He continued the good work back home in Australia in December, finishing a creditable joint 23rd at the Emirates Australian Open and then an excellent joint eighth at the Australian PGA Championship, presented by Coca-Cola, a week later.

The effort meant Griffin finished third on the 2012 Order of Merit with earnings of over $230,000 -- nearly as much as his previous three years combined.

"Yes, 2012 was definitely my best year yet -- and I was really happy with the last six months of the year," he said. "It was a real positive to play that way after a tough six months to start the year, and gives me a lot of confidence going forward into 2013."

Thailand Open LogoGriffin, a natural left-hander who plays right-handed, hails from Melbourne and lists Greg Norman as his golfing hero growing up. Like most Australians, he likes spending time at the beach when he is not on the course.

"After the Australian PGA Championship I had three weeks off with no golf and enjoyed catching up with friends and spent time down the beach," he said.

"We got started on the Australasian Tour in mid-January, and so I have been playing consistently since then -- and the game has come back nicely."

Griffin has added a new Titleist 712 three iron to his bag, but is otherwise planning no changes to his equipment, team or training regimen for this year.

"It is pretty much all the same for 2013," he said.

"My team has been working well and is really happy with how my game and body is progressing."

Long an advocate of professional golfers being allowed to ply their trade where they want, Griffin was one of four players who won a restraint of trade suit against the Asian Tour last year after being fined by that body for playing on OneAsia.

Now he is excited by the burgeoning relationship between OneAsia and the JGTO, which is formalised by the season-opening Thailand Open and following Indonesian PGA Championship.

"I think it is fantastic for both tours and gives the OneAsia players great opportunities to also play on the Japan Tour," he said.

"It also looks like we will have really good fields at the events so it should be a great couple of weeks.  Hopefully the partnership can strengthen over the next few years."
 

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