Thongchai’s the Toast of Carlsberg Malaysian Open

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 22: An heroic hole-in-one by Thongchai Jaidee helped him win the US$1.21 million Carlsberg Malaysian Open today at Saujana Golf and Country Club.

The 34-year-old, spurred on by an ace on the par-three 16th, became the first golfer from Thailand to win on The European Tour after beating Australian Brad Kennedy by two strokes.

Thongchai fired a four-under-par 68 for a four-round total of 14-under-par 274, in an event joint-sanctioned with Asia. Thongchai claimed the Myanmar Open last Sunday and has now won six times in Asia. He became the seventh Asian player to win on The European Tour.

Kennedy, who finished equal second in last year’s Carlsberg Malaysian Open, closed with a 67. He had to hole 25-foot birdie putt on the par-five 18th to tie Thongchai but his putt just slipped past and he then missed the return

Thongchai won US$201,660, for the biggest pay day of his career, while Kennedy earned US$134,440.

“It was the breakthrough result I was looking for. Finally I have won a big one … a joint-sanctioned tournament,” said Thongchai, who earned a three-year exemption to play in Europe.

Yesterday’s bad weather meant the whole field had to finish their third round this morning. Thongchai shot a 64 to finish two strokes behind leader Lee Sung-man from Korea. Deaf golfer Lee led on 12 under for the tournament but fell back in the final round with a 77.

In order to ensure 72 holes could be completed the players remained in the third round pairings for the final round. It meant that Thongchai was playing well ahead of the final groups.

He struggled on the front side going out in two over before a brilliant back nine.

“I was able to change gear on the back nine,” said Thongchai, who birdied 10, 13, 15, and 18. He chipped in for birdie on 13 and holed a four footer on the last for a back nine of six-under-par 30.

However his wonder shot on the 16th overshadowed everything else. He hit a six iron on the 188-yard hole for the second hole in one of his professional career.

“I hit the shot with a bit of draw. You can’t see the green from the tee and I was just trying to get it on the green,” said Thongchai, whose ball landed 15 feet from the pin and bounced three times before dropping into the cup.

Thongchai moved to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit and went into fourth place on the Volvo Order of Merit – all a far cry from the days when he served as a paratrooper in the Thai military.

“I tried to maintain my emotions today. I was very nervous over the last putt,” added the Thai.

Kennedy had four holes left to play when Thongchai finished his round. He’d birdied 14 to go to 13 under but was unable to hole the putts on his way into the clubhouse.

“I shot 33 on the front nine which got me going. Then birdied 11, 12 and 14 and that gave me an opportunity. I thought a couple of guys ahead of me would be pushing ahead but asked my caddie on the last what we needed to do. Knew we needed to make four. I gave it my best but came up a little short,” said Kennedy.

Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol and Prayad Marksaeng and Frenchman Thomas Levet finished on 10 under. They shot rounds of 73, 70 and 70 respectively.

Ireland’s Paul McGinley carded a 70 and finished on six under while Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie was a stroke further back after closing with a 72.

Final round top-20:

274 – Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 71-71-64-68
276 – Brad Kennedy (AUS) 69-70-70-67
278 – Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 68-72-65-73, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 70-69-69-70, Thomas Levet (FRA) 69-70-69-70
280 – Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 70-72-67-71, Andrew Marshall (ENG) 71-69-68-72
281 – Klas Eriksson (SWE) 68-74-70-69, David Dixon (ENG) 70-73-69-69, Lee Sung-Man (KOR) 69-68-67-77, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 70-67-72-72
282 – Jason Knutzon (USA) 71-69-68-74, Lin Wen-Tang (TPE) 70-75-67-70, Paul Mcginley (IRE) 68-70-74-70, Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 68-68-75-71
283 – Jose-Manuel Carriles (ESP) 72-70-71-70, Yang Yong-Eun (KOR) 71-70-75-67, Richard Mcevoy (ENG) 70-73-69-71, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 69-72-67-75, Stephen Dodd (WAL) 68-73-75-67, Martin Maritz (RSA) 66-74-72-71, John Bickerton (ENG) 70-75-71-67, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 68-71-73-71, Colin Montgomerie (SCO) 73-66-72-72, Greg Hanrahan (USA) 68-70-74-71
284 – Wade Ormsby (AUS) 73-70-69-72, Johan Edfors (SWE) 74-69-69-72, Martin Erlandsson (SWE) 68-74-71-71, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 72-71-70-71, Marcus Both (AUS) 74-69-70-71