Among the Brooks Koepkas and Dustin Johnsons and Jordan Spieths near the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard, there may be one name that’s a little less familiar to golf fans: Jazz Janewattananond. Say that ten times fast.
The 23-year-old Thailand native is in a tie for second place at 5 under through the first three rounds, trailing only Koepka. Even if you watch PGA Tour events religiously, it’s not exactly common to have previously heard of Jazz – who fittingly signs autographs by writing the music symbol followed by a-z-z. The PGA Championship is the second major he has played in, but if he finishes in the top four this weekend he will earn a spot in the 2020 Masters.
Since Jazz announced his presence to the golf world like a trumpet starting off a song, we should probably get to know the man that many PGA Championship spectators have already endeared themselves to.
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How exactly do you pronounce Jazz Janewattananond?
Luckily for broadcasters and many of his new fans, the first name is pretty self-explanatory. Its convenience has allowed it to be adopted by those cheering him on as he navigates the tough terrain of Bethpage Black. Jazz isn’t his birth name though, far from it. No, it’s actually Atiwit. He was nicknamed Jazz by his father, who is a fan of the music genre (not the Utah NBA team, apparently).
The tongue-twisting really begins once you attempt to pronounce his 15-letter last name. The phonetic pronunciation is Jann-wat-ta-non-nond, which doesn’t come easily on the first try, or maybe even the second or third. It’s not hard to see why he just uses his first name when signing autographs.
If Jazz builds off his PGA Championship performance in future American tournaments, it’s going to be his first name that is the subject of many chants.
He loves American fast food
Prior to this past week, Jazz had never been to the East coast of the United States. He hasn’t had too difficult of a time enjoying the food.
“Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, In n Out. If I lived here, I’d probably gain a few pounds,” he told Golf Digest.
Jazz’s American experience also included sightseeing of the World Trade Center and the September 11 Memorial before he headed down to Bethpage Black on Long Island. From the looks of it, the relationship between him and America is mutual.
He was a crowd favorite on No. 18 on Saturday. Jack Miller, his caddie, who is a New York local and frozen foods manager at a Long Island grocery store, seems to be soaking up the embrace as well, as he constantly smiled through the cheers for Jazz.
He has already built up an extensive golf resume
This is Jazz’s second major – the first was when he missed the cut at the 2018 Open Championship – but his golf impact mainly lies outside of the country.
Since turning pro at the very young age of 15, he has three wins on the Asian Tour, with the most recent coming at the Singapore Open in January of this year. Jazz defeated PGA Tour professional Paul Casey by two strokes in the tournament. He has also won three times on the All Thailand Golf Tour and once on the MENA Golf Tour.
Jazz will play in the 2019 Open Championship and, as mentioned above, can qualify for the 2020 Masters with a top four finish on Sunday. He is currently ranked No. 72 in the World Golf Rankings.
Friend and fellow Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who Jazz calls his “big brother” has helped him acclimate to the PGA Tour.
“It’s great to see him playing well out here,” Jazz told ESPN. “He’s taught me a lot of things. He said to give it another two years [before trying to make it on the PGA Tour].”
Jazz found inspiration in an unlikely place
Jazz took a break from golf towards the end of the 2016 season to become a monk. That has to be pretty unique to the PGA Championship field.
The mind and body relaxation seemed to work out for him, as just a few weeks later he won his first Asian Tour event at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open. The rest, they say, is history.