Thongchai Jaidee hopes his rediscovered putting touch will bring success in the forthcoming UBS Hong Kong Open – and help him cling on to his Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.
The Thai ace lies second to compatriot Thaworn Wiratchant in the money list with just two events remaining and agrees that he needs an outstanding display at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling this week to stay in the race.
“There are only two more tournaments to go and Thaworn is in a good position,” admitted Thongchai. “He has been very strong this season. His short game is very good and his driving has improved compared to last year. He has really got his game together.
“I think I have to finish first or second this week to have a chance of catching him. But it will be tough. The course here is very tight and accuracy off the tee is important. I won’t be using my driver much.”
Thaworn leads the Order of Merit with record earnings of US$496,745.00 after a sparkling season in which he has won four times in 25 starts. Thongchai, winner of the Order of Merit last year and in 2001, is US$78,970 behind, having played just 11 events as he split his time between Asia and Europe.
Thongchai is banking on his putting to give him the edge. He admits he struggled to find his touch initially at last week’s Volvo China Open in Shenzhen after returning from the United States following a failed attempt to qualify for the US PGA Tour.
“The greens in China were very slow, especially compared to the US where they were much faster,” he said. “For the first three rounds, my putting was a problem. I was also jet-lagged and feeling tired.
“But before my final round, I put in a lot of putting practice and I felt a lot better. After that, I hardly missed. My iron play was not so good, I missed about seven greens, but I kept making par putts.”
Thongchai, who finished joint seventh in Shenzhen, was back on the practice green at the Hong Kong Golf Club yesterday. “The greens here will be faster than Shenzhen,” he added.
The veteran Thai star will have to overcome a world-class field in the UBS Hong Kong Open – which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours – if he is to stand a chance of catching Thaworn.
The line-up at Fanling includes defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and US PGA Tour star KJ Choi of Korea, the world’s top-ranked Asian player.