Meet the Jazz man
May 18, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Jazz Janewattananond birdies No. 18 in Round 3 at PGA Championship
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – In today’s twitter style world of minimal characters, not even Jazz Janewattananond writes out his full name.
Instead he gets creative with his signature, fashioning a ‘J’ in the shape of a music note and adding the ‘azz’. The surname gets left out.
Good thing too as he’d probably have carpal tunnel syndrome given his popularity at Bethpage Black this week.
The up-and-coming Thai star, at just 23, is the biggest surprise packet at the PGA Championship – moving into a tie for second place with just 18 holes to play.
“It’s the greatest fun of my life,” he beamed after 54 holes.
The New York locals have cheered him on in full voice… although they’re really struggling to get his name right. He’s been laughing throughout his rounds as they try.
“People keep shouting love you. They love me here!” he adds.
For the record, it’s pronounced, “JANNA’-watta-NON’-nond.
While winning a major championship Sunday will take something extra special given Brooks Koepka holds a seven-stroke buffer at the top, Janewattananond can certainly change his life with a high finish.
He entered the week ranked 72nd in the world rankings and he knows if he can sneak into the top 60 this week, he will be exempt into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next month.
A top four finish means an invitation to the 2020 Masters.
He is already in the 2019 Open Championship via his win at the Singapore Open earlier this year.
If he gets his way he wants us to be seeing even more of him on the PGA TOUR, something that could be possible if he garners enough non-member FedExCup points to gain Special Temporary Membership.
He also has the Presidents Cup this December at Royal Melbourne firmly in his crosshairs.
Jazz is already sitting 16th on the International Team points list. Should he finish second alone at the PGA Championship, he could jump to as high as second in his quest to join Ernie Els’ team.
“It's on the back of my mind for sure. I played with Ernie a couple weeks back, and he just told me to keep playing good. So I'll see about that,” he said.
“The short-term goal is to get in the upper world rankings so I can confirm my spot in the Olympics and maybe have a chance at the Presidents Cup. That’s a realistic goal for me.”
His dream would be to make it with fellow Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat who currently sits 17th on the list. He is sitting T26 at Bethpage through three rounds.
He also want to join him on the PGA TOUR in the future.
“For sure it’s my goal to play here. Kiradech is like my big brother. He is already out here playing and I am looking up to him. We did practice rounds every day together this week and he teaches me a lot of things,” Janewattananond said.
It’s been a whirlwind trip to New York for Janewattananond – his first. But he’s made the most of it. Both around the course and away from it. He spent the early part of the trip checking out the city with a friend.
He also has been trying to get a closer look at none other than Koepka – an easier task given he has Pete Cowen for a coach – the man who helps Koepka on his short game.
“The buildings. It's like a country jungle. And the food is so good. I love fast food here,” he laughs.
“I can’t pick one but top of my list Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out… pretty much all of them. If I live here I probably gain a few pounds.”
That might not be a bad thing. He looks like he weighs 100 pounds wringing wet. Officially he comes in at 150 pounds and is just 5’9”.
When he tried to introduce himself to Tiger Woods on the range on Monday, he lost his voice and with his youthful face and braces on his teeth he joked the 81-time TOUR winner probably thinks he was just some kid from the PGA Junior League.
“I lost words, I couldn’t say anything,” he said of the moment with Woods.
“I said “Tiger Congratulations” and then nothing… I couldn’t even introduce myself.”
Woods – who missed the cut – will certainly know him should he fire Sunday. As will everyone else.
But here’s some more of what you need to know about the Thai star.
- His first name is actually Atiwit. His father was a huge fan of jazz music and gave his son the nickname Jazz.
- He was a member of PGA TOUR Series-China in 2015 as a 19-year old (finished 22nd at Q-School) and went on to play one event, tying for sixth in Zhengzhou.
- This is his fourth PGA TOUR start. He missed the cut at the 2017 Charles Schwab Challenge, was T39 at the 2018 CIMB Classic and missed the cut at the 2018 Open Championship.
- In 2019 he has won the Singapore Open, and has five other top five finishes around the world at the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship (5th), the New Zealand Open (4th), The Maybank Championship Malaysia (3rd), the Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open (T5) and the Singa Chiang Mai Open (T4).
- He became the youngest golfer to make the cut on the Asian Tour as a 14-year-old. Turned pro at 15 in 2010. Started hitting balls when he was eight with his father who is a judge in Thailand and was winning junior events at 10. “When I was four, I was introduced to swimming and everyone outgrew me. I’m this scrawny kid and I then started playing football (soccer) at six and I was horrible at it. Maybe that’s why I changed to golf.”
- He won his first Asian Tour event at the 2017 Bangladesh Open.
- He spent two weeks as a monk in Thailand one off-season (2016) and claims it was the key to becoming a winner.
- He is using a local caddie this week at Bethpage – Jack Miller. Miller is 63 and worked at Bethpage Black since 2009, but is a full-time Frozen Food Manager for King Kullen Grocery Company.