Thongchai Triumphs in Volvo Masters of Asia

Sun 17 Dec 2006

Thongchai Triumphs in Volvo Masters of Asia

Bangkok, December 17: Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee survived a nervy double bogey finish to end a frustrating 22-month winless run by lifting the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia title on Sunday.

The two-time Asian Tour number one, the first double winner of the Volvo Masters of Asia after his triumph in 2003, carded a final round 72 for a one-stroke victory over Filipino legend Frankie Minoza at the magnificent Thai Country Club.

Minoza tied for the lead briefly at the halfway stage of an enthralling final day shootout before settling for a 70.

Charlie Wi of Korea took third place after a 69 in the US$650,000 event while Thai Thaworn Wiratchant's hopes dipped dramatically on the back nine after running up a bogey and double bogey on the 15th and 16th hole, finding water on both occasions, after battling hard for the lead with Thongchai.

Thongchai's popular home triumph extended his impressive streak of winning a title every year since 2000 and also tied Thaworn's record eight victories in Asia.

But he did it the hard way. With a three-shot cushion going into the last hole, the former paratrooper made a jittery finish, driving into thick rough on 18, finding a bunker before getting to the green side in four. Two putts later however, Thongchai was able to celebrate a first title of 2006, worth US$104,000.

"I feel very happy, I was very lucky this week," said Thongchai, whose victory moved him to second place on the final UBS Order of Merit with earnings of US$444,736. "It is good to win in Thailand. I feel great as I tried my best. My driver and putting worked this week. My putting was good coming in and I made everything. I just missed a few putts this week. It was very good."

Taking a two-shot lead into the final round, Thongchai, whose last victory in Asia was at the 2005 Malaysian Open, started superbly with three birdies over his opening four holes before making uncharacteristic errors by dropping three shots on the fifth and sixth holes.

He was caught by Thaworn and Minoza at the turn where the trio were tied on 11-under-par but Thongchai stepped up a gear by rattling home a 20-foot birdie on 11 to regain the lead. Another eight foot birdie conversion on the 14th established a three-shot advantage as his rivals stumbled down the stretch.

"I told myself to forget about it (the double bogey) and just played my own game and tried on the other holes to get birdie," said Thongchai. "I tried to hit a cut with the driver (on 18) but pushed it left into the deep rough. I tried to get bogey but the second shot ended in the bunker. My third shot got into the rough again and I said let's try to go for a double bogey. Two putts for a win, it was okay," he added.

Minoza, one of Asia's legends with multiple victories across the region including in Japan, got into the title mix with a superb outward 33 that included a hat-trick of birdies from the seventh hole. But a bogey on the 10th hole punctured his title hopes before another birdie on the 14th and a bogey on the 17th.

"This has been the best week of the year for me. I played well and mounted a challenge before bogeying the 17th hole. I hit my approach there well but the greens are a little bit hard and it rolled into the bunker. I could not get it up and down for par," said Minoza.

US-based Wi, who arrived in Bangkok early Thursday morning after competing in the Barbados World Cup last week, produced the day's best of 69 but he came up short in the end. After turning in one under, he reeled in three more birdies before a bogey on the par three 16, after missing the green, ended his challenge.

"I didn't know the course that well. If I had played a couple more times, I could have known it better. I was too far behind. I needed like five or six birdies on the back nine. The greens are so tough and it's so hard to get close to the hole. I played nice and I can't complain," said Wi, who regained his US PGA Tour card from Qualifying School earlier this month.

India's Jeev Milkha Singh wrapped up a marathon season by ending his 40th tournament of the year in tied sixth place on 282 after signing for a 72. With four titles around the globe in what has been a dream year in which he was crowned the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit champion, the Indian star is now looking forward to a well deserved break.

"My holiday starts now," smiled Singh, who accumulated a record US$591,884 on the Asian Tour. "I'm happy. The way I ended up today, I didn't shoot over par. I didn't hit the ball well the whole week. It's been a long season. It's been a dream year. I hope starting next year, things will get better but it'll be tough to repeat what I did this year.

"I'm just going to relax and get some work done on my wrist (injury) and party hard! I haven't thought about rewarding myself. I'm just looking forward to a break and take it easy back home and hang around with my friends and relax."

Leading final round scores

277 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68-68-69-72

278 - Frankie Minoza (PHI) 76-64-68-70

279 - Charlie Wi (KOR) 71-69-70-69

280 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 72-65-70-73

281 - Prom Meesawat (THA) 68-70-72-71

282 - Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 69-70-73-70, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 72-66-72-72, Edward Loar (USA) 71-68-71-72, David Bransdon (AUS) 76-65-69-72

283 - Andrew Buckle (AUS) 71-70-71-71, S.S.P. Chowrasia (IND) 70-70-71-72, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 67-72-68-76

285 - Anthony Kang (USA) 76-64-73-72, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 71-70-69-75

286 - Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 72-69-73-72

287 - Liang Wen-chong (CHN) 74-70-73-70, Iain Steel (MAS) 69-72-66-80

288 - Thammanoon Srirot (THA) 71-74-70-73

289 - Chris Rodgers (ENG) 69-73-74-73, Simon Yates (SCO) 72-71-72-74, Angelo Que (PHI) 72-71-70-76

290 - Rick Gibson (CAN) 72-75-71-72, Barry Hume (SCO) 74-71-71-74, Lee Sung (KOR) 69-70-74-77, Gary Rusnak (USA) 71-72-71-76, Lin Keng-chi (TPE) 68-73-71-78, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 68-75-69-78

291 - Jarrod Lyle (AUS) 73-73-75-70, Chinarat Phadungsil (THA) 71-70-78-72, Wang Ter-chang (TPE) 69-73-76-73, Adam Groom (AUS) 69-75-74-73, Kane Webber (AUS) 77-68-72-74, Jason Knutzon (USA) 71-70-74-76, Unho Park (AUS) 70-70-74-77, Yasin Ali (ENG) 72-69-71-79