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Strongest ever field lines up for Singapore Open

The Race to Dubai heats up in Southeast Asia this week when the newly co-sanctioned Singapore Open tees off on Thursday at the city-state’s demanding Sentosa Golf Club.

Still regarded as the flagship event on the Asian Tour, the $5 million tournament joined up with the European Tour this year and will boast its strongest ever field as the pursuit for a big payday in the Middle East next month nears its conclusion.

Marquee players such as Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington and K.J. Choi will also line up at island’s Serapong Course but Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee is confident he can upset the odds and emerge as champion.

“This year, my body is stronger than last year,” the former paratrooper said.

“The key this year has been my health. If I feel strong, I can play well. I played well in a couple of majors and it’s given me a lot of confidence.”

The 39-year-old Thongchai has been a big name in the region for a decade, winning two Asian Tour order of merit titles, but has made a global breakthrough this year with victories in co-sanctioned events in South Korea and Indonesia.

The Lop Buri native has seven other top-20 finishes on the European Tour this year and sits just three places outside the top 15 in the Race to Dubai rankings.

Thongchai feels the Singapore layout is perfect for his game and arrived in good shape after a finishing in a tie for 19th at the Portugal Masters two weeks ago.

“The course is very tricky but my swing is better than last time,” said Thongchai, who recovered from a disappointing opening 76 last year to finish 13th. “I’m confident of playing well, because my driver and irons are working well.

“I’ve not won three tournaments in a year before but this year I have a very good chance of achieving that goal.

“However, you need to drive the ball well around (Serapong), and hit the fairways. It’s not an easy course to score on. The greens are firm and the rough is very thick. On some holes, you have to hit away from trouble.”

Thongchai admits the players from outside the region may have better skills but feels the sweltering conditions can help level the playing field.

“The tournament is in Asia so there is good chance for an Asian to win,” he added. “We have very strong players who regularly play well in the tournament.

“It’s a good field but the weather favours Asian players. Europeans always struggle in the heat, so it’s an advantage for our players.

The last two European Tour order of merit winners, Britain’s Justin Rose and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, as well as twice Singapore Open champion Adam Scott of Australia are also in the field.

 

October 27, 2009




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