'The best year of my life' - Thongchai
Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee hailed his 2009 season as the “best year of my life” on Sunday and then set his sights on next year’s Majors.
The Thai star ended a memorable campaign with an equal 11th place finish at the King’s Cup at the Singha Park Khon Kaen Golf Club as he was officially crowned as Asia’s new number one for a record third time.
|Thongchai Jaidee receives his Order of Merit trophy from Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han|
The former paratrooper won twice this season, finished top-10 in three other events and did not miss a single cut on the Asian Tour to earn a little over US$980,000, his career highest earnings in a single season.
“This year is certainly the best year of my life since I turned professional. I was very happy with how I played,” said Thongchai, who received his Order of Merit trophy, sponsored by Royal Selangor Pewter, from Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han.
“After I got injured in 2008, I did a lot of gym work to get my back stronger and I worked very hard. I knew I had to get my body stronger. When you are strong, you can play anywhere. My swing also felt a lot better after some small changes and it all contributed to my success.
“I was consistent all year long. I only missed the cut in two events in Europe and none on the Asian Tour. It showed that my game is getting better. I wasn’t scared and I won a few tournaments,” he added.
Thongchai, whose earlier Merit triumphs came in 2001 and 2004, said his next goal was to challenge for a Major title in 2010. He will be exempted into the British Open next year through his Merit success while an invitation to a second Masters Tournament appearance beckons for the popular Thai.
“Yes I do,” was Thongchai’s reply when asked if he thought his game was good enough now to win a Major.
“I played very well at the British Open this year (he finished tied 13th). I had so many three putts that week. It was the best that I hit the ball at a Major. But in four rounds, I had like seven or eight three putts. If I had only taken two three-putts, I would have been in the play-off. But you can’t think of it that way. I’ll just keep working hard,” he said.
“My dream is to win the Masters. I know it’s very difficult but that’s my dream. If I can get into the Masters again, I want to make the cut there. If I do, I would have made the cut in all the Majors in my career.”
While he turned 40 last month, the Thai strongman believes he can still maintain his mantle as Asia’s top player despite the emergence of a new breed of young and exciting Asian stars.
“I guess it has to do with getting my body stronger. Some players’ game go down when they get older. But I don’t think about getting old. When you’re strong, you also won’t get injured,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the Asian Tour, which he says has given players like himself the platform to rise to prominence. “The Asian Tour has given us a lot of tournaments and supported Asian golfers. There are a lot of players coming up now and there is support for them through the Asian Tour. We have a chance to become big players. When I started playing in 1999, the prize money was small but it’s so big now,” he said.
Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han lauded Thongchai’s record Merit triumph. “Thongchai has had a great season and winning our Order of Merit title for the third time reinforces his growing reputation as one of Asia’s greatest players of all time.
“We are proud of his terrific achievements as he started his career on the Asian Tour and we are confident he will fly our flag with pride in the new season,” said Han.
December 6, 2009