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Thongchai sweeps Asian Tour awards

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee swept four main awards at the Asian Tour's Awards Night 2004 on Sunday, including the prestigious Players' Player of the Year and Order of Merit titles.

On a day he successfully defended his Carlsberg Malaysian Open title, Thongchai was feted by his peers at the Zeta Bar, Hilton KL Central following an amazing season in 2004 where he won two titles, the Myanmar Open and Carlsberg Malaysian Open last February and lifted the Merit title with record earnings of US$381,930 from nine starts.

His dominance was underlined by his first place finishes in the Stroke Average and Greens in Regulation classifications, which he shared the honours with Scotsman Simon Yates. Hitting 73.61 per cent of greens in regulation helped Thongchai to an impressive stroke average of 69.58.

It was the culmination of a tremendous week as Thongchai had hours earlier completed his start-to-finish triumph in Malaysia's national Open at Saujana Golf and Country Club, becoming only the third player to defend a title in the championship's history.

The 35-year-old Thongchai said that he was honoured to be recognised by his colleagues on the Asian Tour with the Players' Player of the Year Award.

"This is a great week for me," enthused Thongchai, who has now won seven times in Asia. "I am proud to be a part of the Asian Tour. If you look at Arjun Atwal, KJ Choi, Daniel Chopra, Charlie Wi and Kevin Na, they are all winners of Asian Tour events. Now they are on the US PGA Tour. I think that tells you that if you can win in Asia, you have a good chance to make it at a higher level."

Thongchai stated his immediate goals now were to win outside of Asia and also earn his right to play in the US Masters in April by breaking into the world's top-50. Ranked 90th last week, he is destined to move up the list when the rankings is released later on Monday.

"I hope to play at Augusta National but I'm not sure yet. It's a top course and a top event in the world. I will play in Myanmar next (this week), followed by Dubai and Qatar. I have some more events to move into the top-50. I have a chance," said the Thai, who regained his familiar place at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit after winning US$201,660 on Sunday.

Australia's Adam Groom was named Rookie of the Year after finishing 15th on the Order of Merit last season with winnings of US$117,728 from 13 tournaments. The 26-year-old had three top-10s, including tied third place finishes at the DHL Philippine Open and Volkswagen Masters ­ China.

Thailand's Thammanoon Srirot, the winner of the Tianjin TEDA Open Presented by Rolls-Royce, had the lowest putting average of 1.70 while his evergreen countryman Boonchu Ruangkit rammed in 256 birdies to top that category.

The splendid Pine Valley Golf Club in Beijing was voted Host Venue of the Year by the players. The inaugural Volkswagen Masters - China was played over the Jack Nicklaus-designed course and the highly-rated complex will host the Johnnie Walker Classic in April.

The players also enjoyed their two trips to the Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai during 2004 and it was named runner-up in the Host Venue category. Both the BMW Asian Open and Crowne Plaza Open were held at Tomson Golf Club last year.

 

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