ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Previously, when Thongchai Jaidee teed-up in major championships his goal was modest – to make the cut.
Now, though, the accomplished Thai golfer is not only targeting to play in all four rounds, but to write his name into the game’s history books as the first Asian winner of the Open Championship.
“I am getting closer towards winning a major,” said the reigning Asian Tour No. 1 ahead of his appearance at St. Andrews this week in the 150th anniversary edition of the championship.
Thongchai said after contending at Turnberry last year, where he finished joint 13th, he believes his dream of hoisting a major trophy can become a reality.
“This week I will try my best, but I will not put too much pressure on myself,” Thongchai said. “I have a strong passion to win in my mind, but we will see how it goes.”
Returning to the Home of Golf has brought back fond memories for Thongchai, who wrote a small slice of history here in 2005 by becoming the first Thai to play in all four rounds of the Open, finishing tied for 52nd.
“I was pleased with my performance at Turnberry (in 2009) as I hit it well from tee-to-green under the daily changing conditions. However, I still need to work on my concentration.” said Thongchai, who holds the most victories on the Asian Tour with 12 wins.
“Currently, I am in good form,” he said. “I’m hitting my driver and irons straight to the target. But my putting has been a bit off. I’m still toying with a few different putters for this week.”
With poor weather expected for the first round, the 40-year-old knows the elements will pose the biggest challenge to him and the field.
“I enjoy the challenges at St. Andrews and a lot will depend on the weather,” he said. “The conditions are hard to predict. In one day you can have all four seasons, which makes it harder to judge your shots.
“To play this course, I must focus well and put all my heart and mind to control the ball. Staying on the fairway and greens will be the key. If the weather is bad, I need to stay calm and focused. Last week in Loch Lomond, the weather was so bad on the last day and I struggled for three holes. You have to keep going and not lose strokes.”
Thongchai knows that a top finish this week will return him into the world’s top 50 and earn him a spot in next month’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – the week before he takes part in the U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc..
Earlier this year, Thongchai – ranked 53rd in the world – reached the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship before losing to eventual winner Ian Poulter.