Masters in sight for Thongchai

Thongchai Jaidee ©Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour
Thongchai Jaidee ©Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: Thai maestro Thongchai Jaidee hopes to boost his chances of earning a place in April’s Masters Tournament by putting  on a masterful performance at the Maybank Malaysian Open which begins Thursday.

The unprecedented three Asian Tour Order of Merit winner is currently ranked 59th on the Official World Golf Rankings and he needs to break inside the top-50 in the world by early April to qualify for this year’s first Major tournament.

The 13-time Asian Tour winner is looking forward to a winning return to Malaysia, which is a happy hunting ground for the Thai who won back-to-back Malaysian Open titles from 2004. He was also runner-up in 2006 when the event was staged at the resplendent Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, which is the host venue this week.

“It is a very important week. I need to win the tournament to give myself a chance at qualifying for The Masters. It will be very important for me to play well,” said Thongchai, ahead of the US$2.75 million Asian and European Tours co-sanctioned event.

“I like coming to Malaysia. I know the course quite well. The temperature is like Thailand but the humidity in Malaysia is a bit hotter than Thailand.”

The five-time winner on the European Tour is yet to miss a cut this year and is confident of translating his solid performances, which includes three top-10 results in the Middle East.

“My game is a little better but putting is very important. I hit the ball everywhere last week (at the Avantha Masters) because I put too much pressure on myself. I need to work a little bit on my swing and I think I’ll be okay,” said the former paratrooper, who finished tied 43rd in India on Sunday.

He uncharacteristically missed the halfway cut at the Maybank Malaysian Open last season but is determined to not repeat the same mistake at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

“I know what I did wrongly. I’ll plan better this year. You tend to lose your rhythm in Malaysia because of the rain suspensions so I want to handle myself better. I know the weather in Malaysia is very unpredictable but I’ll try my best to win anyway,” he said.

He will lead a strong Asian charge this week with countryman and reigning Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant, Liang Wen-chong of China, who finished third at the Avantha Masters last week and an in-form Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, who now tops the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.

Korea’s Kim Kyung-tae, China’s Wu Ashun, Thailand’s Arnond Vongvanij, Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun, Filipino Juvic Pagunsan and India’s Anirban Lahiri are also expected to contend in the Maybank Malaysian Open.