Thai veteran star Thongchai Jaidee is confident he can shoot for Major glory at The Open starting on Thursdayto tick off a few remaining boxes in his illustrious career.
The triple Asian Tour number one arrived at Royal Troon brimming with confidence following a stylish victory at the French Open two weeks ago against a stellar field and tough golf course.
“France was a perfect week. I putted well, drove it good and everything was fantastic. I got a lot of confidence from there,” said the 46-year-old Thongchai.
“This is an important week. The Open is a big event and anyone can win it here. I’m looking forward to having a chance. I’ve come here for so many years now and this is my best chance to win (a Major) as I’ve not had good results in the others.
“I won’t say no about winning. My goal is always to win,” added the Thai, who finished tied 13th at Turnberry for his best Open outing in 2009.
The former paratrooper, whose first golf club was a discarded three iron head stuck onto a bamboo stick, has been one of Asia’s leading performers for over a decade where he has accumulated 13 Asian Tour victories as well as a record three Order of Merit triumphs.
In recent years, he has won on the European Tour in Wales, Germany, Sweden and most recently France and despite growing long in the teeth – Thongchai turns 47 in November – the affable Thai continues to thrive in the game dominated now by the youth brigade.
I love golf … golf is my life. I enjoy playing and I enjoy training. The thing is about getting more confidence when you play. It’s about keeping consistent and I’ve been consistent in my career,” said the world number 38.
“Experience is important. I’ve been playing in Europe for about 14 years and I’ve learned how to play links courses. I can play in the rain, cold or wind which is no problem for me now. I remember the first time I had those experience and it was really bad.
“All you need is one good week, you perform well and you have a chance to win. Even this week, my feeling now is very good, my driving and irons are very good. I’ll be ready to go on Thursday,” added Thongchai, who will play the first two rounds with former Open winner Paul Lawrie and Brandt Snedeker.
He was also equally excited to qualify and represent Thailand in the Olympic Games in Rio in August. “I never thought that in my life, I would have a chance to play in the Olympics. I’m 47 this year and I’m looking forward to representing my country. It’s going to be a proud moment in my career, it’s going to be amazing,” he said.
“If I can win any medal, it would be fantastic. Any medal will be big. I’m very excited to get to Rio. It’s going to be another highlight in my career.”
Countryman Kiradech Aphibarnrat is hoping to shake off some fatigue after zig-zagging between Europe and the United States over the past four weeks. But with his wife, Tunyatorn Chaiyarat, with him for the first time at a tournament since they got married earlier this year, the big Thai is hoping she will prove to be a lucky charm.
“My wife is coming out to her first tournament since we got married. It’ll be good to have her here. My parents are here with my sister and it’s a special week and I hope everyone will be my lucky charm,” said Kiradech, ranked 53rd in the world.
There will also be no shortage of home-cooked Thai meals with the team bringing out food from back home to cook in their rented house in Troon. “We have brought out a lot of Thai jasmine rice. We’ve had enough of good Thai food so far,” said the 26-year-old Kiradech.
Like Thongchai, the big-hitting Kiradech is also feeling positive of a title challenge in Royal Troon. “If you asked me two years ago, I would say it’s tough to play on links courses. But I’ve now spent enough time playing in Europe and I’m used to the winds and conditions. You’ve got to keep the ball below the wind and give yourself an opportunity to get to the green.
“Using the iron off the tee will be a good choice this week. Yesterday in the practice round, I played with Andy Sullivan and after he saw me tee off with an iron, he asked what’s wrong with me! On this course, you’ve got to play it as it comes.”