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Thongchai Jaidee set for tilt at record third European win

Thongchai Jaidee is well rested and thoroughly prepared as he gears up for a shot at golfing history.

The Thai ace enters this week's Maybank Malaysian Open attempting to become the first Asian player ever to win a European Tour event three years in a row.

Thongchai skipped last week's Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, preferring to stay at home and practice in readiness for his title defence.

"I played three weeks running in the Middle East - in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai - and I was just too tired to go to Perth," he reveals.

"Also, it was too far to travel. I decided to take a week off to practice and I called my coach to come and look at my swing. My swing is good now, I like it."

Thongchai's preparations for the Maybank Malaysian Open also included playing the course last December.

His triumphs in 2004 and last year both came at Kuala Lumpur's Saujana Golf and Country Club while this year's event will be staged, for the first time, at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

"I came here for a week's holiday just before New Year and played the course," confirms Thongchai, 36. "It is playing much softer now, but it was still a worthwhile trip. The thing about this course is the rough - it is very difficult. If you miss the fairway or the green then you are in trouble, so it is all about accuracy."

Thongchai will face a strong field when the Maybank Malaysian Open - once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours and promoted by Parallel Media Asia - tees off on Thursday.

Among the favourites will be Ryder Cup aces Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jiménez, European Tour star Stephen Dodd, Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thaworn Wiratchant and Chinese No.1 Zhang Lian Wei.

Ireland's Harrington will tee off in Kuala Lumpur after a stellar year on the US PGA Tour which saw him win twice.

Spanish veteran Jiménez, meanwhile, is looking for his first victory this season after recording an astonishing six European Tour wins in the past two years.

If Thongchai should see off his rivals and land the Maybank Malaysian Open title again, he will join a select band of just five players - Ian Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open, 1990-92), Nick Faldo (Irish Open, 1991-93), Colin Montgomerie (PGA Championship, 1998-00), Tiger Woods (WGC-NEC Invitational, 1999-01) and Ernie Els (Heineken Classic, 2002-04) - to win the same European Tour event three years running.

But he insists his past form in the event does not give him an advantage. "It is not the same as last time, now we are playing on a different course."

Even so, he admits his game is in good shape. "It is getting better," he says. "My irons are good and I will be practicing my putting before Thursday. Hopefully, my putting is getting better as well."

For a man on the brink of history, the former paratrooper is refusing to be fazed by the task that awaits him. "I will try, I will just go out and do my best," he smiles. "But it's golf, so who knows?"

February 14, 2006



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