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Thongchai Jaidee sets sights on Masters place

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee has set his sights on a debut appearance at the U.S. Masters in April after achieving multiple success in Asia over the last 24 hours.

The former paratrooper, who led from start to finish to retain his Malaysian Open title by three strokes on Sunday, hopes to gain a place at Augusta National either via a special invitation or by breaking into the world's top 50.

"I hope to play at Augusta National but I'm not sure yet," Thongchai told reporters after sweeping the board with four honours at the 2004 Asian Tour's awards evening on Sunday.

"I just hope the people at Augusta were watching (his Malaysia Open victory) as I would love to play there and learn the course.

"It's a top venue and a top event in the world," added the Thai, who clinched the Asian Tour's 2004 order of merit title and was voted player of the year by his peers following his victory in Malaysia.

"I still have four events to play before the end of March to get myself in the top 50. If so, then I know I will be going."

March 27 is the cut-off point for golfers in the top 50 on the world rankings and not otherwise exempt to gain entry into the U.S. Masters.

Thongchai, 35, is ranked 90 but will climb higher when this week's official rankings are released after the completion of the U.S. PGA Tour's rain-delayed Nissan Open.

This week, he defends his Myanmar Open title at Yangon Golf Club before going on to play in European Tour co-sanctioned events in Dubai, Qatar and China.

Since he started the game as a youngster after tying the discarded head of a five iron to a bamboo stick, Thongchai has won seven career titles on the Asian Tour.

Twelve months ago, he became the first Thai player to win on the European Tour with his maiden victory at the Malaysian Open. He is now aiming to follow in the footsteps of China's Zhang Lian-wei.

Zhang, who in 2003 became the first Chinese golfer to win on the European Tour when he edged out Ernie Els by a stroke at the Singapore Masters, carved out another slice of golfing history at Augusta National last year.

He became the first Chinese-born player to compete in the U.S Masters, but missed the halfway cut at Augusta National by a stroke following scores of 77 and 72.

The 2005 U.S. Masters, the first of the year's four majors, takes place from April 7-10.

 

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