Thailand’s veteran star Thongchai Jaidee claimed his second PGA TOUR Champions title after defeating Justin Leonard on the fourth hole of a sudden-death play-off at the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee at Pebble Beach on Sunday.
Beginning the final round a shot off the lead, the 53-year-old Thongchai, who holds multiple wins in Asia and DP World Tour, closed with a 5-under 67 to force extra time with 36-hole leader Leonard and subsequently won the tournament with a par on the iconic par-5, 18th hole after the American found trouble from off the tee en route to a double bogey.
“This week, I would say special week for me because we play the links, the signature (course). We know about Pebble Beach for a long time. I try to work very hard with my caddie, spend a lot of time putting together. We hit driver pretty well, iron pretty well and putting was getting back. That’s why everything is complete,” said Thongchai, who tallied rounds of 70-65-67 for a 14-under 202 total.
“Winning gives me back my second wind, that’s why very, very happy to be second time to win on PGA TOUR Champions.”
Thongchai’s success marks his third top-10 of the season, following a T5 at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open and more recently, T2 at the Shaw Charity Classic. He earned a spot at the 2024 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. He earned US$345,000 and also rose to 16th place on the Charles Schwab Cup rankings.
While Thongchai was an established star during the heights of his career following eight DP World Tour wins and numerous other titles across Asia, he did not quite manage to pull off a dream win on the PGA TOUR with three top-10s from 70 career starts.
His success in the over-50s circuit in the U.S. holds dear to his heart as he is the lone Thai golfer competing on PGA TOUR Champions. “I think personally for me, this one I’m very proud of myself and for my country to be, I mean, the fact is I’m only one guy (from Thailand) to play on tour, that’s why very proud of myself and for my country to be here,” he said.
Thongchai, who served in the Thai army as a paratrooper before turning professional, produced some wonderful golf to march to victory which also allowed one of his academy players, known as Sammy, to enjoy the win alongside him as his caddie. “He grew up in my academy and he’s a good boy and helps me a lot to get my momentum sometimes. He told me OK, I want to keep you fresh up a little bit, and wake up sometimes!” said Thongchai.
After advancing through Tuesday’s open qualifier for a spot in the field, India’s Arjun Atwal posted three rounds in the 60s to claim third-place honours in his fifth PGA TOUR Champions start. He closed with a 69 after opening with two 68s. Korea’s Y.E. Yang, Asia’s first major winner at the 2009 PGA Championship, finished tied fifth after a final round 70.
2023 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Pebble Beach Golf Links | Pebble Beach, CA
Spyglass Hill Golf Course | Pebble Beach, CA
23rd of 28 PGA TOUR Champions events in the 2023 Season
|Pos.||Player||Scores||Money||Charles Schwab Cup|
|1.||Thongchai Jaidee*||70-65-67—202 (-14) SH-PB-PB||$345,000||16th|
|2.||Justin Leonard||69-65-68—202 (-14) PB-SH-PB||$202,400||24th|
|3.||Arjun Atwal||68-68-69—205 (-11) PB-SH-PB||$165,600||65th|
|4.||Paul Stankowski||71-65-70—206 (-10) SH-PB-PB||$136,850||17th|
|T5.||Y.E. Yang||68-69-70—207 (-9)
|T5.||Steven Alker||68-69-70—207 (-9)