Bangkok, Thailand: Phachara Khongwatmai will become one of the youngest players in recent history to tee it up at The Open, golf’s oldest and most international championship, after securing one of the four qualifying spots on offer at the fifth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship.
The US$1 million event, which has been part of The R&A’s Open Qualifying Series since 2014, saw Jamie Donaldson claim his first victory of the season in fine style. The Welshman, who clinched the winning point for Europe at the last installment of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, fired a brilliant 65 to finish three shots ahead of two-time Thailand Golf Championship winner Lee Westwood and rising French star Clement Sordet on 21-under-par.
Donaldson, Westwood and Sordet also earned their berths at The 145th Open, to be played next July at Royal Troon, thanks to their play at Amata Spring Country Club, but it was the performance of Phachara that stood out.
Phachara, who is fighting to retain his Asian Tour card after an inconsistent season, was only assured of his place in the Thailand Golf Championship field after getting through the qualifying tournament on Monday. Now, thanks to a fine 66 in the final round to finish the event in solo sixth – which earned the final Open spot for those players who were not already exempt – he can look forward to making his Major debut.
“I am overwhelmed with happiness that I can be included in The Open,” said an emotional Phachara, who moved upto 63rd on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. “I played with no expectations so I guess that was the key to playing well today.
“I was already very happy to get a chance to play with the top stars this week. I didn’t think so much and I surprised even myself to finish so well.”
Westwood said: “It’s great to get into The Open. It’s my favourite championship of the year. I have played in every one since 1995 so it’s nice to keep that run going.
“I’ve played at Royal Troon quite a few times and I finished fourth there one year. I like the golf course as it’s a traditional links, straight out, straight back. It’s got everything you want from a links course.”