The top stars from the Asian Tour are tipped to make the US$2 million Thailand Classic a nail-biting affair when the inaugural tournament gets underway next month.
The Thailand Classic is the first tournament in the Kingdom to be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour in eight years and will see players from both continents battling for supremacy at the award-winning Black Mountain Golf Club from February 12-15.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, a three-time Asian Tour number one and ranked 38th in the world, will spearhead the local charge alongside leading compatriots Thaworn Wiratchant, Prayad Marksaeng, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Prom Meesawat and Chapchai Nirat. The six Thai players have a combined 47 Asian Tour victories.
The evergreen Thongchai achieved his goal of finishing inside the world’s top-50 in 2014 and has raised the bar even higher as he seeks another impressive showing on home soil early in the 2015 season.
“2014 was one of the best seasons for me so far. I achieved my goal of finishing inside the top-50 in the world and I’ve been very satisfied with my form over the past 12 months,” he said.
“It’s a new season and I’ve set higher goals for myself. Hopefully I can do even better than last year,” added the Thai, who captained Team Asia to a thrilling 10-10 draw with Team Europe at the inaugural EurAsia Cup before going on to win his second title on European soil in Sweden last year.
Newly-crowned Asian Tour Order of Merit champion David Lipsky of the United States will be looking to claim another tournament victory at a co-sanctioned event, similar to his heroics at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland last season.
The 26-year-old battled tooth and nail with India’s Anirban Lahiri for the prestigious Merit crown and proved he was worthy of matching up to the game’s best on his day.
Lahiri, voted as the 2014 Players’ Player of the Year thanks largely to two wins last season, will also be looking forward to make another early impression on the big stage.
Currently ranked 68th in the world, the Indian knows a strong performance in the first quarter of the season will give him the opportunity to break into the world’s top-50 and earn him a ticket to the Masters Tournament in April.
Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman, who got married to his long-time girlfriend, Auroni Samaun this month, will be hoping to find similar bliss at Black Mountain which has earned international acclaims since it was opened for play in 2007.
The unassuming Bangladeshi was sidelined by a back injury last year but has since recovered and is itching for action again. The 30-year-old, a two-time Asian Tour winner, is determined to restore his past glory where he is the first player from Bangladesh to win on the Asian Tour.
Other Asian Tour stars ready to prove their mettle include flamboyant Filipino Angelo Que, Singapore’s veteran star Mardan Mamat and India’s Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh, both former Asian Tour number ones.
Charismatic Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, who captained Team Europe at the EurAsia, is expected to be another strong contender for the Thailand Classic along with a host of European Tour players including France’s Victor Dubuisson, England’s David Howell and Scotland Stephen Gallacher.
The Thailand Classic has received great support from the PTT Group, Black Mountain Golf Club, Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), Thailand Professional Golf Association (TPGA), Chang, Bangkok Hospital, Titleist and the Intercontinental Hotel & Resort -Hua Hin.
Also supporting the event are ThaiTicket Major, Golf Channel, AJP and Travel Channel.