Major winners Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer will join defending champion Sergio Garcia in a star-studded field for the eagerly anticipated fourth edition of the 2014 Thailand Golf Championship, which will be staged once again at Amata Spring Country Club on December 11-14.
Furthermore, two of Europe’s other Ryder Cup heroes – Lee Westwood, who captured the Thailand Golf Championship in 2011, and Victor Dubuisson – have committed to play in the Asian Tour’s US$1 million tournament, as has South African legend Ernie Els, who will be making his first appearance in the event.
Adding to the excitement of a tournament that has provided so much drama in its first three years, the Thailand Golf Championship has been confirmed as part of The Open Qualifying Series (OQS), with four places at the 2015 Open, to be held at St Andrews, up for grabs.
With a little over two months to go before the action gets underway at magnificent Amata Spring, which has been voted as the best course on the Asian Tour for three consecutive years, Garcia said he can’t wait to return to the Land of Smiles.
“I have been coming to the Thailand Golf Championship every year and I love it, but last time was especially special as it gave me my first win of the season,” said world number three Garcia, who made a hole-in-one on his way to a four-shot win in 2013. “The event always attracts a really high-quality field and this year it is as strong as ever, so I’ll need to be at my best if I want to retain my title. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
In Watson and Kaymer, the Spaniard faces two players who have this season recorded their second major championship victories.
In April, 35-year-old Watson put on a brilliant display of ball-striking to collect his second Green Jacket for winning the Masters Tournament at famed Augusta National Golf Club, while Kaymer powered his way to a convincing first US Open title at Pinehurst’s historic No. 2 course.
“Sergio played great last year and I’m sure all the European guys will be feeling good after their win at the Ryder Cup, but Amata Spring is a course I really enjoy playing and I know I can perform well on. There’s no doubt: it’s going to be another great week in Thailand,” declared Watson, whose best result at the Thailand Golf Championship came in 2012 when he finished in a tie for second behind runaway winner CharlSchwartzel.
Kaymer, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season after winning the Players Championship in May before adding to his major championship haul at the US Open in June, will be making his Thailand debut and is raring to go.
“I’ve heard so many good things about the Thailand Golf Championship – the quality of the golf course, the friendliness of the fans and the great atmosphere they provide – that I was very happy adding it to my schedule,” said the German, who is ranked 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. “I’m really hoping to experience plenty of Thai culture, too.”
Inaugural Thailand Golf Championship winner Lee Westwood, who fired a blistering 12-under-par 60 in the first round on his way to a seven-shot victory in 2011, is gunning for his second Asian win of the year after claiming the Malaysian Open in April. The Englishman, one of the most successful players in European Tour history, said his fondness for the event combined with his knowledge of the course will stand him in good stead.
“The 60 I had that first year was certainly the lowest and arguably the best round of my career.” reflected the 41-year-old. “Amata Spring suits my eye very well and it is always in fabulous condition. The Thailand Golf Championship is one of the most enjoyable weeks of the season and I’ll be trying my best to get the trophy back off Sergio.”
Dubuisson, who was one of Europe’s standout performers at Gleneagles, will, like Els, be making his first appearance at the Thailand Golf Championship and is likely to make a big impression with the fans thanks to his laid-back manner and impressive all-round game. The former world amateur number one has featured prominently on leader boards around the world in recent times.
The Frenchman finished the European Tour’s Race to Dubai season in sixth place in 2013 and boosted his credentials yet further by reaching the final of the 2014 WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship in February. Consecutive major top-10 places at the US Open and the PGA Championship – plus that stunning Ryder Cup display – makes the 24-year-old one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Sarath Ratanavadi, Executive Director of the Thailand Golf Championship, said he is delighted that the tournament has once again attracted such a strong field of international players.
“We are once again thrilled to welcome so many world-class players to Thailand, some of whom will be participating in the country for the first time. The Thailand Golf Championship continues to grow from strength to strength each and every year and provides a wonderful opportunity for Asian players to test their talents against the very best golfers in the world,” he said.
Although the elegant championship trophy has gone to international stars over the previous three editions, the local galleries can be assured of a strong Thai challenge from the likes of Thongchai Jaidee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Prayad Marksaeng, Prom Meesawat and Chapchai Nirat.
The Thailand Golf Championship’s significant prize purse and positioning as the penultimate event on the Asian Tour calendar means it will likely play a key role in determining who wins the Order of Merit. But its newly acquired status as part of The Open Qualifying Series means there’s now more to play for than ever.
“The R&A is pleased to confirm that the Thailand Golf Championship will become part of The Open Qualifying Series,” said Dominic Wall, Asia-Pacific Director of The R&A. “Beginning with the 2014 event in December, players from throughout Asia will have the opportunity to secure places in The Open Championship, which will be played next year at St Andrews.”
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, added, “We are delighted to welcome the Thailand Golf Championship to the Open Qualifying Series. It is one of the most prestigious events on the Asian Tour and is played at an outstanding venue in Amata Spring. Both the Tour and the club have been extremely supportive and we are looking forward to a great championship with the added incentive of four places in The Open at stake.”
Asian Tour Chairman Kyi Hla Han said: “The Asian Tour is delighted that the Thailand Golf Championship will now be part of The Open Qualifying Series. This new status will provide additional motivation for our talented members to shoot for glory and fight for places in The Open Championship in 2015.
“Since its inauguration in 2011, the Thailand Golf Championship has been a major fixture on the Asian Tour Schedule and the event, which continues to attract world-class golf stars, has indeed grown in stature that it is regarded as one of the most prestigious tournaments in Asia.
“I would like to express our fullest appreciation to Amata Spring Country Club for its vision for the Thailand Golf Championship and we look forward towards another successful staging of the tournament.”
Photo Caption (from left to right):
1) IMG Golf: Mr. Grant Slack, Senior Vice President
2) Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (Thailand): Mr. Itsushi Aoki, President and Managing Director
3) Toyota Motors Thailand: Mr. Nutthorn Sinives, General Manager, Passenger Car Marketing
4) PTT: Mr. Surat Jiamlertwiwat, Vice President, Eastern Petroleum Terminal Department
5) Gulf: Ms. Porntipa Chinvetkitvanit, President
6) Thailand Golf Championship: Mr. Sarath Ratanavadi, Executive Director of Thailand Golf Championship 2014
7) SCB: Ms. Chadaduang Suwannadat, Representative from SCB
8) St. Regis Bangkok: Mr Krister Svensson, General Manager
9) The R&A: Mr. Dominic Wall, Director, Asia-Pacific
10) Solar Power Company: Mr. Passorn Wiengket, Advisor
11) Asian Tour: Mr. Kyi Hla Han, Chairman
12) Amata Spring Country Club: Mr. Andrew Pitts, General Manager