Photo - Asian Tour
THONGCHAI AIMS FOR MASTERS MILESTONE
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee plans to complete another career milestone when he tees up at the Masters Tournament on Thursday.
The reigning Asian Tour number one is determined to play in all four rounds at Augusta National in what will be his second Masters appearance and emulate his previous performances in the three other Majors.
Additionally, no Thai player, the others being Sukree Onsham and Prayad Marksaeng, has made the cut in the year’s first Major and Thongchai intends to play his way into the history books by becoming the first to achieve the feat.
“My goal is simply to make the cut. I don’t want to think about the ranking right now. I only know that I will do my best to play in all four rounds. I will be very proud to be the first Thai to do so. I have made the cut at US Open, PGA Championship and the British Open … this is the outstanding Major that I have been waiting for,” said Thongchai, who qualified for the Masters by being in the world’s top-50.
Alongside Asian Tour honorary members K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang, both from Korea, Thongchai knows that strong performances by them will further reinforce the strong appeal of Asian golf to the rest of the world.
Yang became Asia’s first Major champion last August when he won the PGA Championship while Thongchai enjoyed a strong run at the WGC-Accenture Match Play where he lost to eventual winner Ian Poulter in the quarter-final stage. The Thai also finished tied 13th at the British Open last year.
“Definitely, it is very important (to play well in a Major). Being one of the representatives of the Asian Tour and as its number one, I have to perform well and let the world know that Asian players are as great as the internationals,” said Thongchai, the first man to win three Order of Merit titles on the Asian Tour last season.
“My results at the Match Play filled me with a lot of confidence and I know I can compete with the world’s top golfers. At least, I can tell myself I was able to defeat some of the top players.”
The former Thai paratrooper received an invitation to compete at Augusta National in 2006 but missed the halfway cut. The Thai, who holds the most number of wins on the Asian Tour with 12 titles, hopes to set the record straight this week.
“I am really looking forward to it, and I’m actually very excited as I hope to set a new record for myself. I have had a rest and I put in some good practice over the last two weeks,” he said.
“The course is tough and I remember it very well. But also, the thrill is with the atmosphere around the golf course. It’s great. You need to have a good game plan to shoot a good score. I have to be very careful on the detail of each hole and the greens are very difficult.”
Strangely, Thongchai said he did not grow up dreaming of playing in the Majors when he learned the game during his teens. But once he made a name for himself on the Asian Tour, where his first Order of Merit success came in 2001, he knew that his greatest challenge was to match the world’s best players.
“Honestly, I was not very interested in the Masters or the other Majors when I was young. I just enjoyed playing golf and hitting balls for a long time. However, I got interested in the Majors after I turned professional and started to win Asian Tour tournaments. It then became my dream to stand side by side and compete with the world’s best players,” he said.