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Jaidee seeking dual target at Volvo Masters

Thai star Thongchai Jaidee has set himself a dual target this week - retain the prestigious Volvo Masters of Asia title and win the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.

The former paratrooper warmed up for his title defence in the US$550,000 season-ending event by shooting six consecutive birdies in Tuesday's pro-am, signalling a clear warning to his rivals at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club.

It could be a double celebration for the talented Thai as he is well positioned to win the Order of Merit title as he is US$52,957 ahead of closest challenger Simon Yates of Scotland .

"I want both titles," declared Thongchai when asked which was more important in a press conference today. "I'm feeling good about this week and I am looking forward to the first round."

After a disappointing weekend in Hong Kong , the Thai has opted to switch to his previous set of irons and has also swapped the shaft in his driver for more control. He also put in his bag an old putter which he used in 2001 when he was Asia 's number one.

"I didn't have control with the driver last week and changed the shaft which is a bit shorter. The irons were also working out nicely yesterday and I only missed one green in the pro-am. I like this course, it's a good layout with good greens.

"Simon is in top form but I'll just stick to my game plan which is fairways, greens and putts. Every player wants to win here and there is pressure on me. My back was a bit tight last week but I had a three-hour massage on Monday when I was back home and feel better now," said Thongchai, who has won US$359,675 this season.

The Volvo Masters of Asia will see a field of 53 professionals from the top-60 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit plus four amateurs, two each from Malaysia and Thailand, competing. The tournament has no halfway cut.

The season finale is also the last chance for Yates to prevent Thongchai from a second Order of Merit title in four years. For Yates to win the merit title, he must finish no lower than second place and Thongchai to be lower than 13th.

If Yates wins the Volvo Masters of Asia, Thongchai must finish in second place on his own to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

But after a career season which saw Yates claim one title and register seven top-10s, he said his focus was to simply play his best golf. "This year has been really good. I played very nicely in the middle of the season but a bit average of late. Hopefully I can play well this week as I like the course.

"I'm not thinking about Order of Merit. You can't think about that too much. Obviously it'll be great to shoot 25 under par and win the tournament but I'll just go out and play my best," said Yates, who holds the course record of nine-under-par 63 set in 1999 and has two runner-up finishes here.

All the top-10 players on the Order of Merit are in this week's field, including India 's Jyoti Randhawa, ranked third. The former Asian number one is out of the running for the merit title but he is looking to put in the final piece to another good year which was highlighted by a top-30 finish at the British Open in July.

"The course is the best that I've seen it. The greens are in good condition and it'll be a good week. I had a great start to the year with a second and third place finish. It has been a bit lacking in the end and that's why I want to finish the year on a good note. Volvo events have always been good for me to play in," said Randhawa, who finished third in last year's Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok .

Thongchai will play the opening round with Australian Terry Pilkadaris, back-to- back winner of the Crowne Plaza Open, Shanghai and Sanya Open, while Yates will begin his campaign alongside Korean American Anthony Kang.

The amateurs in the field are Malaysia 's Lim Eng Seng and S. Sivachandran and Thailand 's Norachet Juntapun and Panuwat Meunlek.

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