Photo - Asian Tour
THONGCHAI UPBEAT AHEAD OF TITLE DEFENCE AT BALLANTINE’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Sentosa, April 14: Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee plans to overcome his Masters heartbreak with a successful defence of the €2.2 (US$2.9 million) Ballantine’s Championship in Korea next week.
The Thai star withdrew from the second round of the year’s first Major at Augusta National last week with an elbow injury but has been given the all-clear to defend his title at the Pinx Golf Club from April 22-25. The tournament is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Korean PGA.
“I am looking forward to returning to the Ballantine’s Championship. It was my biggest career win ever, not just because of the prize money but also the points which helped me reach the world’s top 50,” said Thongchai.
Following his premature campaign at the Masters, the former paratrooper stayed back in Atlanta for several days and saw a specialist attached with NBA outfit Atlanta Hawks. The diagnosis was a muscle strain.
“The specialist treats similar kind of injuries for basketball players and he gave me an injection to ease the strain. After some rest, it is feeling a lot better now,” said Thongchai.
“It was a very disappointing week at the Masters. I first felt the injury at home and when I arrived early at Augusta and practised hard, it began to feel sore during the first round. Then after nine holes of the second round, I could not go on. At least I was pleased to birdie the 10th hole,” he said.
Thongchai’s memorable week at the Ballantine’s Championship 12 months ago, which was a record 12th Asian Tour title, helped him claim an unprecedented third Order of Merit success.
Reflecting on his dramatic play-off victory over Spaniard Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño and local hero Kang Sung-hoon, the Thai said he would remember it as one of his best titles yet.
“The layout of Pinx Golf Club is very challenging. It is often blustery and cold there and the approach shots are tough due to the numerous bunkers around the greens. It is one of the most challenging golf courses on our Tour schedule,” said Thongchai, whose form this season has been impressive with three top-10s in Asia, Europe and US.
“I remember the play-off really well as the winds were very strong. I hope to play well again at the Ballantine’s Championship as I also want to improve my position in the world rankings,” added the 40-year-old, who is currently ranked 48th.
Three-time Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa, who recently won back-to-back titles on the PGA Tour, American Anthony Kim, who finished third at the Masters, and Korean star Y.E. Yang, Asia’s first Major champion, will also headline the third edition of the Ballantine’s Championship.