Augusta, United States: Thongchai Jaidee believes he is hitting the golf ball better than ever as he prepares to launch a worthy challenge at this week’s Masters Tournament.
The 45-year-old Asian Tour star hopes a month-long break from tournament play ahead of the season’s first Major championship will ignite his game at Augusta National Golf Club from April 9-12.
A return to Augusta will bring back good memories for the celebrated Thai golfer as he made the half-way cut last year in his third attempt at the Masters Tournament, which completed a career goal of playing in all four rounds of every Major championship.
Like most, the world number 43 desires a Major win in his resume and despite his advanced age, the veteran believes the Masters Tournament will offer the best opportunity for him to contend.
“I feel I’m ready for the Masters Tournament. I’ve had a full month of not playing in tournaments and was instead getting myself ready for the Masters,” said Thongchai.
“I’ve been hitting the ball better despite my advancing age but I’m good in trying to keep my body fit and healthy by doing regular gym work. I stay fit all the time to make sure that my golf is at its best.”
In recent years, the former paratrooper, the only player to win three Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns, has established himself as a leading international golfer. After finishing tied 37th at Augusta National last April, he went on to win the Nordea Masters in Sweden for his second victory on European soil.
A 13-time Asian Tour winner, he is also in contention to qualify for the International Team for the Presidents Cup against the United States in Korea this October. He is presently ranked seventh on the team listings.
Thongchai knows he cannot be overly aggressive at Augusta National despite his eagerness to feature on the leaderboard.
“I’ve learned a lot from my three visits to Augusta National. It’s not a golf course where you can go aggressive as it will punish you, especially around the greens. You need to be steady and consistent to play each shot and try to make birdies when there is a good opportunity,” said Thongchai.
Despite it being his fourth visit, he cannot wait to take the drive down Magnolia Lane and compete in the par-three tournament which is staged on the eve of the first round.
“Augusta National is a unique course, unlike the other majors where they switch different courses every year,” he said. “There is so much tradition at the Masters Tournament … such as the par-three contest. It’ll be a good week.”
With YE Yang being Asia’s lone Major winner following his success in the 2009 US PGA Championship, Thongchai believes it will only be a matter of time before other Asian golfers win Major titles.
“It’s true we haven’t seen any Asians breaking through but as time goes by, we can expect more wins from Asian players,” he said.
“Development of golf needs time and these days I see golfers from Japan and Korea have been coming out strong and representing our continent on the world stage. A country like India is also doing well. But at the end of the day, it needs time.”
Singapore: The spotlight will return to conditioning of golf course putting surfaces when the Asian Golf Industry Federation’s Sustainability Series of webinars continues next week.