FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Atiwit Janewattananond of Thailand, who’s tied for second place heading into the ultimate spherical of the P.G.A. Championship, had two overarching targets earlier than he struck his first shot within the match: Shake fingers with Tiger Woods, and discover a caddie.
Woods’s mom is Thai, which has made him a foremost sports activities persona in Janewattananond’s dwelling nation.
“Earlier than I left, all my pals at dwelling insisted I meet him,” Janewattananond stated of Woods.
In an idle second on the observe vary earlier than the occasion’s begin, Janewattananond, 23, ambled over to Woods however struggled to make an introduction.
“I had no phrases,” Janewattananond stated with fun on Saturday evening.
Woods smiled and a handshake adopted, but it surely was Janewattananond’s distinct impression that Woods didn’t know whether or not he was assembly a fellow competitor or a pleasant younger interloper in braces.
As for the caddie, Janewattananond wanted one as a result of he had traveled from Thailand alone. He’s the world’s 72nd-ranked golfer and a three-time winner on the Asian Tour who goes by the nickname Jazz as a result of it was his father’s favourite musical model. On the Bethpage State Park golf middle, officers assigned him considered one of their veteran loopers, 63-year-old Jack Miller of Farmingdale. Janewattananond is the one golfer within the subject on the power’s Black Course who’s utilizing a neighborhood caddie.
Miller’s first process was studying to pronounce Janewattananond’s final title (Miller stated it was Jan-eh-whot-en-na-nond), though he was delighted to listen to there was a four-letter nickname.
Janewattananond, who speaks English, struggled to grasp Miller’s New York accent.
His caddie was unsympathetic.
“I instructed him, ‘Hey, you got here all the way in which right here for this match. You need the whole New York expertise, don’t you? ’ ”
Janewattananond is getting that and extra. Whereas the Bethpage crowds are raucous and susceptible to taunting some gamers, Miller stated Janewattananond had been welcomed.
“No one is giving him a tough time,” Miller stated. “And I’ve been right here when it goes the opposite manner.”
“Even after I hit a foul shot, they don’t boo,” he stated. “And so they’re actually humorous making an attempt to pronounce my title. Perhaps they like me as a result of I’ve a Bethpage caddie.”
The Janewattananond-Miller partnership has proved fruitful.
With a three-under-par 67 on Saturday, Janewattananond accomplished the third spherical 5 underneath for the match, which left him tied with Harold Varner III, Dustin Johnson and Luke Checklist seven strokes behind the chief, Brooks Koepka.
“It’s a number of the finest golf I can play,” stated Janewattananond, who turned skilled when he was 15. “I actually suppose the loopy vitality of the gang is selecting me up.
“Once I first received right here earlier within the week, the golf course was moist, lengthy and so exhausting — I used to be having a nightmare and questioning if I’d break 80. However I’ve been calm largely the final two days.”
Janewattananond, who was born in Bangkok, considers an uncommon off-the-course choice — no less than for a professional golfer — pivotal in his latest growth as a participant. Following the 2016 golf season, Janewattananond spent two weeks as a Buddhist monk, a time when he prayed and chanted.
“It’s one thing that each Thai or Buddhist does, however for me, it made a distinction in my golf profession,” Janewattananond stated whereas standing alongside the gamers’ observe inexperienced. “It made me extra peaceable. I’m not making an attempt so exhausting on the golf course. There are extra necessary issues than golf.”
Miller stated he has not mentioned that have with Janewattananond, however he was not stunned to listen to about it, both.
“He’s a really centered child, and he is sort of a child as a result of he’s laughing and smiling on a regular basis,” Miller stated. “However when it comes time to hit a shot, he’s a decided skilled, an actual professional’s professional.”
The primary of Janewattananond’s three Asian Tour victories got here in 2017 when he was 21.
Though he’s solely 5 foot 9 and 150 kilos, Janewattananond can hit towering drives, and he swings with such pressure that his left foot — his entrance foot — pivots and virtually leaves the bottom simply after influence with the golf ball. It could possibly be, in some ways, a prototype for a brand new trendy golf swing — offered the golfer is as versatile, supple and athletic as Janewattananond and might generate the top-end swing pace that he does.
It additionally hasn’t harm that Janewattananond has displayed an adept brief sport and a steely resolve on the greens. He appears to be having the time of his life this week on the daunting Black Course, typically working down the steep hills that lead from the tee packing containers to the fairways. He walks with a jaunty bounce and jumped up and down in a single bunker when his deftly executed shot almost fell into the opening. Watching Janewattananond is no less than one technique to visualize the play in participant.
On Saturday evening, Janewattananond stated his purpose was to sooner or later qualify for the PGA Tour.
To be prepared, he already has perfected his autograph for followers. As a result of his as soon as prolonged signature was virtually illegible, a number of years in the past he started merely signing, Jazz.
As a substitute of a “J,” he attracts a musical observe.
“Individuals appear to love that,” Janewattananond stated. “I like that it retains issues easy. I strive to try this on a regular basis.”