Thai veteran star Thongchai Jaidee has the same goal whenever he tees up for any tournament – and that is to be the last man standing with the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
When the 46-year-old Asian Tour stalwart tees up for his fifth Masters Tournament appearance at Augusta National next week, he will be willing himself to go for broke in an attempt to make golfing history.
Time, as Thongchai acknowledged, is ticking on his chequered career which includes three Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns, 13 titles in Asia and three wins in Europe but the world number 41 wants a shot at winning one the game’s most prized possessions, the green jacket that comes along with winning The Masters Tournament.
Over the past two year, he finished tied 37th and 55th at Augusta National, performances which have given him better insights and confidence in taming the hallowed course.
Thongchai recalled his debut at The Masters some 10 years ago in which he made an abbreviated appearance by missing the halfway cut.
“The first year I played in The Masters, I didn’t have any experience. You need to play more and more on the golf course to understand how to play it. Around the greens, you need to really play well,” said the Thai.
“Last year, I played good and this year I think I will have more experience. I know about the pin positions, I remember every hole at Augusta National. I will continue to work hard in my game and work on everything to be ready. I know where to miss it and where you can’t miss it.”
During his time in the Thai army while serving as a paratrooper before joining the professional ranks, Thongchai was taught to never say never in anything that life throws at him.
And now, that includes becoming the first Asian to win at The Masters, which is the year’s opening Major.
“Why not? For me I will try to win. I know it’s difficult but you need to have targets. When I get there, my goal will be to win. Previously, I would just be looking at making the cut. Now, my target is to win the tournament … not just The Masters but in every tournament that I play in. If I don’t win, I’m still alive. It’ll be no problem and we’ll try again next year,” said Thongchai.
“My focus is harder at the Majors, especially The Masters which is very special. Everything is very exclusive. You have less than 100 players getting into the event and the halfway cut is only for 50 players and ties.
“When you are at The Masters, when you drive in from the main gate, which the access for players to enter the club, it’s a very special feeling. No one else can come through Magnolia Lane.”
With a new generation dominating world golf in the shape of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Thongchai knows that opportunities to win the big events will be challenging.
“The new players are very, very good. They have the right basics and they have new technology to help them. I don’t think anyone will beat Jack Nicklaus’ Major record as there is so much depth in the game and not one player is dominating.
“The young guys are coming up … you can see it happening on every Tour in the world, even on the Asian Tour. They are coming up so fast, they are winning every week,” said Thongchai.
Having turned professional at the late age of 30, Thongchai said the likes of reigning Asian Tour number one Anirban Lahiri will have many more opportunities that he did to win Major titles. To date, only Korea’s Y.E. Yang has won a Major championship for Asia.
“Anirban played really well last year and now, you can see the Asian Tour producing very good young players. They will have the chance to win Major tournaments. In less than 10 years, we’ll see more Asians winning Majors,” he predicted.
“These days, there are professional golfers at the age of 16 years old. When I look back at my own life, I sometimes joke and ask why was I born early? The new generation gets things easier due to technology. But I still managed to win tournaments.”