Thongchai, a three-time Asian Tour number one, completed his ‘career grand slam’ of making the cut in all the Major championships after playing in all four rounds in the year’s first Major for the first time in three attempts.
His result at the Masters Tournament came two weeks after leading Team Asia’s magnificent comeback to draw against Team Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia.
He hopes to continue the momentum when he aims for a third Maybank Malaysian Open title and his 14th Asian Tour victory at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
He will face strong challenges from former world number one Lee Westwood of England, Major champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and reigning Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.
“I think the more you play at Augusta National, the better you get. I’m very happy with my performance. My key goal was to make the cut because it was the only Major where I didn’t make the halfway cut before,” said Thongchai.
“After you play well in a Major tournament, you always get more confidence. I’m definitely happy with how I played and I think that I’ll continue to carry on my form. I travelled all the way from the United States but I don’t feel any jet lag. I slept a lot on the plane and I feel great now,” he smiled.
Playing in Malaysia has always brought out the best in Thongchai, whose career has been on the upswing since he won back-to-back Malaysian Open titles in 2004 and 2005. He was also runner-up at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in 2006.
“I’ve always said that I like playing in Malaysia. We were here three weeks ago and did very well in the EurAsia Cup. It is nice to return to the country. The Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club looks better than last year. I think anyone can win here this week so you have to go out and play your best,” said the 45-year-old.
Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, a winner on the Asian Tour, will give an extra push in his attempt to win the Maybank Malaysian Open for his wife, who is pregnant with twins.
“We’ve been planning to have a baby since last year. I’ve tried to keep it quiet but it’s now eight weeks and we’re lucky that we’re expecting twins. I’m trying to take care of my wife and telling her to slow down on everything in the first three months of the pregnancy. It’s a very special time for me. Of course I have to work harder now! With twins, I’ve got to earn double … I’ve got to work very hard and play in tournaments every week,” said Prom.
Watching his good friend Kiradech win the Maybank Malaysian Open last year has provided Prom with the added motivation to shoot for his second Asian Tour victory since 2006.
“Every time I see a Thai player winning, I feel very proud. We are showing that we have good golfers despite our country being small. It’s very special when Thais win a tournament, especially so when Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Maybank Malaysian Open last year.
“I think this week, it’s a good chance for another Thai player. Prayad Marksaeng is in good form and Thongchai Jaidee made the cut in the Masters and is in good form. Kiradech is struggling a bit but he always plays good on this course. I’m going to try my best to be at the top of the leaderboard,” said Prom.
India’s Arjun Atwal, a two-time Malaysian Open winner, hopes to get back into the thick of things after going through rehab in the last few months to get his back and left knee stronger. He will renew his partnership with caddy Rosli, who was on his bag when he won the Malaysian Open in 2008.
“I don’t know how the game will be as I haven’t played competitively since last year’s Indian Open. It’s a little rusty but at least the body doesn’t feel bad unlike last year where I was struggling,” said Atwal, the 2003 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.
“I’m using the same Malaysian caddie Rosli on the bag this week. He’s the same, he doesn’t care about anything and just goes out to carry the bag which is a good thing.”