Confident Thongchai eyes Major breakthrough

Sat 12 Jul 2014

Confident Thongchai eyes Major breakthrough

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Kuala Lumpur, July 12: In-form Thai golf legend Thongchai Jaidee heads into The Open Championship next week with his confidence in full bloom as he seeks to challenge the world’s best for a Major victory.
The triple Asian Tour number one has enjoyed an outstanding run of form with one victory and two top-five finishes in his last four tournaments on European soil to rise to a career high 34th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
With his game in full groove, the 44-year-old star hopes to contend at The Open Championship where his best performance remains a tied 13th finish at Turnberry in 2009.
“Playing at The Open has been very challenging to me. Regardless of how good or bad the form is, if you can't catch the tempo during the week, then you realize it's a tough job. For me, coming into the Open is always the same. I keep having the belief that I can shoot better and better scores but I do not want to think too much about the finish position,” said Thongchai.
He claimed a second title on European soil at the Nordea Masters in Sweden last month, defeating local hero Henrik Stenson and followed up with a fifth place finish in Germany and a joint second outing at the French Open where he finished one shot shy of winner Graeme McDowell last weekend.
“I still feel great about my game. I've been playing up to my expectation especially last week in France. I feel confident going to The Open,” said the Thai.
With an unprecedented three Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns and 13 career victories in Asia and two in Europe, Thongchai is well regarded as one of the finest ever Asian golfers. He was also voted by his peers as the Player of the Decade (2004-2013) when the Asian Tour celebrated its milestone 10th season last year.
But despite his enormous success, the former paratrooper longs for a Major breakthrough.
A career-best sixth place at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in the United States earlier this season has only reinforced his self-belief that he has the game and mind to top a world-class field.
Four years ago, Thongchai had brush at winning the Claret Jug when he entered the final day just four shots off the lead before finishing equal 13th after closing with a disappointing two-over-par 72. Stewart Cink defeated veteran Tom Watson in a play-off that year.
“Asian players have more opportunities to win Major championship as time goes by,” said Thongchai.
“I learned two things from my experience in 2009. One is that anyone can win a big event as long as you play well that week. I felt so good with my performance that year. But on the other hand, I also learned that in order to win a Major, playing good might not be good enough. You need to play your very best. My experience from 2009 will give me more confidence when I go to Royal Liverpool.”
Firmly established in the world’s top-50 now, the evergreen Thongchai, who captained Team Asia to a memorable draw with Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia in March, is keen to stay in the mix with the world’s elite for as long as possible.
“The competition in world golf is becoming harder. In order to be up there, you need to ensure you not only have to maintain your performance but also continuously improve every year,” said Thongchai, who is known to be a fitness enthusiast.
“I don't know if there is a secret to my success at this age but I think I'm lucky to be able to do what I love. Golf is my life and I have a family who supports me.”
Other Asian Tour members competing in The Open Championship next week include current Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India, reigning number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Asian Tour Honorary Members K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Ernie Els and England’s Chris Rodgers.
Japan’s Masanori Kobayashi, Yoshinobu Tsukada, Koumei Oda, Korea’s Kim Hyung-sung and 2011 Order of Merit champion Juvic Pagunsan will also be in the elite field next week.
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Abacus (Official Apparel Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Sponsor), Oakley (Official Eyewear and Footwear Sponsor), Saxo Capital Markets (Official Statistics Partner), Singha Beer (Official Beer), Srixon (Official Ball) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Also, visit us at www.asiantour.com, www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf, www.twitter.com/asiantourgolf, www.youtube.com/theasiantour and www.weibo.com/asiantourgolf.