Macau, October 22: Decorated Thai star Thongchai Jaidee intends to add the Venetian Macau Open title to his impressive collection of victories to complete the best year of his life.
The three-time Asian Tour number one is amongst the top contenders at the Macau Golf and Country Club starting on Thursday where the stellar field includes Ernie Els of South Africa, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, defending champion Scott Hend of Australia and 17 of the top-20 players from the Order of Merit.
American David Lipsky and Anirban Lahiri of India, the top-two ranked players on the Order of Merit, are tipped to challenge along with China’s Liang Wen-chong and Filipino Angelo Que, who finished second in Hong Kong last week.
The 44-year-old Thongchai, currently 42nd in the world, is enjoying another stellar season and hopes to cap it with a winning week at the Venetian Macau Open. “I’m very happy with my game. I’ve won once but my game is very consistent. This year is the best year of my life for sure,” said Thongchai, who won in Sweden in June and has not missed a single cut in Europe.
“It’s nice to be back in Macau. I’ve not had a chance to spend too much time on the Asian Tour this year, so it’s good to be back,” added the Thai, who will play the opening two rounds with Els and Hend, who won the Hong Kong Open last week.
Former paratrooper Thongchai, who finished tied eighth in Macau two years ago, believes the work he has put in with long-time coach Peter Wolfenstetter has reaped its rewards. “I’ve worked hard on my swing. I’ve had injuries in the past and we’ve changed my swing a bit and adjusted it. I have also switched to the normal length putter and it’s been consistent. Everything has clicked this year,” he said.
“I want to get higher on the world ranking. I’ll keep improving and will train more. Age can slow things down. I know I am getting older, and losing some distance but I am improving on the consistency. I don’t think about age. Training is very important and I will keep working hard.”
Que hopes to ride on his good form after finishing second to Hend in Hong Kong. While he lost in a play-off, he earned many new fans with his bubbly personality and no-holds-barred approach on the course.
“After a good week, your confidence will be high. I don’t want to get ahead of myself as I just want to enjoy it. I’ve done well a few times here, hopefully I can do that again,” said Que, who finished tied sixth here in 2012.
“I really enjoyed myself last week. I was smiling and laughing on the course pretty much every day, every shot. My mind was also very clear when I was playing. I made the right decision which was crucial.”
China’s Liang hopes a new putting method will lead him to a first Venetian Macau Open title. For longer putts, the 2007 Asian Tour number one putts with the standard grip but switches to the cross-handed for shorter attempts.
“There are many strong players but I’m happy with my game. My short game has been good, especially my putting. I managed to find something. I changed to a fatter grip and I use the cross handed for short putts and the normal grip for longer putts. I started about a month ago, and started playing well with a couple of top-10s in Japan,” he said.
With swirling winds expected to throw the field off course, Liang believes it will be important to be committed to a shot. “Here, you have to be defensive and aggressive when you have the chance. You need to make good decisions and be patient,” he said.
After missing his first cut of the season on the Asian Tour in Hong Kong, the 27-year-old Lahiri is eager to repeat last year’s final round heroics in Macau where he shot a course record equaling 62 for second place.
“It’s nice to be back to a course where you’ve done well. I’m excited to be here as the course is playing great,” said the Indian star, a four-time winner in Asia.
“I think every tournament is a learning lesson, even if you play well or don’t play your best. For me I think it was a good wake-up call (last week). Certain areas of my game needed to be looked at. My game is good and I feel confident with how I’m hitting it. A couple of scoring aspects were probably a bit off. I’ve been working on my short game and putts from inside 10 to 12 feet and just need to make some more of those.”
The Venetian Macau Open is jointly organised by Macau Sport Development Board of Macau SAR Government (MSDB) and Golf Association of Macau. It is sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and the Golf Association of Macau, and promoted by IMG. The Venetian Macao is the title sponsor of the event for a third successive year.
Sponsors joining The Venetian Macao in support of the tournament include Rolex, Air Macau, Blue Girl, Lamborghini and Hong Kong Descente, which carries both the Le Coq Sportif Golf Collection, Twinwood Wine and Munsingwear.
Source: Asian Tour