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Crans Montana, Switzerland: Thongchai Jaidee will spearhead a strong cast of Thai players assembled at the Omega European Masters starting Thursday.

Thongchai, a three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, believes the strength and talent of his countrymen will be on parade at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club as they aim to wrestle the title from Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain. 

He will be joined by Thaworn Wiratchant, Chapchai Nirat, Pariya Junhasavasdikul, Udorn Duangdecha and Chinnarat Phadungsil, who has a combined total of 20 Asian Tour victories in the €2,000,000 (approximately US$2.6 million) showpiece. 

Thailand’s rising star Namchok Tantipokhakul will also make his debut in the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

“Many Thai players are now playing on the Asian Tour and they have gained a lot of experience. There’s a bright future for Thai golf and you can see their talent this week,” said Thongchai, who will be paired with world number two Lee Westwood and Alexander Noren in the first two days.

“My ultimate hope is to see more young golfers breaking through the ranks and many of them are tasting success on the Asian Tour which is good for the game of golf,” he added.

Thongchai suffered a back injury in February and had to change his swing to avoid suffering the same injury which landed him in hospital for nine days.

“My game is not 100% now after my back injury. I had to change my swing to ensure I don’t hurt my back again. I used to curve my back more but after my injury, I needed to change it to make it straighter. I’m slowly adapting to this new swing and it is getting better,” said the 13-time Asian Tour champion.

Chinnarat, the youngest player to win on the Asian Tour at 17 years and five days in 2005 while he was still an amateur, is hoping for a solid result in his third appearance at the Omega European Master.

“I know this golf course better compared to the last two years but the greens are still very tricky especially for the Asians. I know where to hit now and I feel more confident especially with my current form,” said Chinnarat, who has yet to miss the cut on the Asian Tour this season.

“If I hit good drives, I got a good chance of having a good score. I’ll try and make the cut first and will aim for a top-10 finish will be a good result for me,” added the 22-year-old.

Newly crowned Major champions Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland will headline the Omega European Masters this week with world number two Lee Westwood of England.

The Omega European Masters is the first event in Europe to be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour in 2009.

Photo - Asian Tour 

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