Thai star Thongchai Jaidee is hoping his rich vein of form will carry him to a record-equaling third Maybank Malaysian Open title this week following a fine start to the 2010 campaign.
Jaidee is relishing a return to the US$2 million tournament which shot him to fame with victories in 2004 and 2005 and he competes against defending champion Anthony Kang of the United States, K.J. Choi of Korea, India’s Arjun Atwal, Australian Andrew Dodt and former Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke of Ireland at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Currently ranked 44th in the world following his third place finish in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Jaidee heads to Malaysia buoyed by his fine performance in the WGC Accenture Match Play, where he lost in the quarter final to the eventual winner Ian Poulter.
Jaidee knows victory at the tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, is within his reach having finished runner-up in the 2006 edition when KLGCC hosted the event.
He credited a new putting device for helping him enjoy a fast start to the 2010 season.
“I’m very confident because my game has improved a lot because my putting is better,” said Jaidee. “I bought this equipment (SAM PuttLab) and it allows me to check my angle and my back swing on the computer. The machine tells me everything about my putting.
“When I first bought the machine (in 2008), I didn’t know how to operate it and had to wait for my coach to teach me. We worked together for about two weeks (at the end of last year) and he knew exactly what my problem was. Now I straighten my wrist so my left hand can guide my putts better,” added Thongchai.
Jaidee labelled the newly refurbished KLGCC as the best course in Malaysia.
“I played on this course in 2006 and came back here to see that everything about it has changed. They moved the tee box back on many holes but the condition is perfect. It is the best course in Malaysia.
“They put more bunkers in and they are in play on almost every hole. This year it will be very challenging. This is the best year so far because of good organisation, good facilities and a fantastic golf course.
Danny Lee of New Zealand, who won the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur, will also be in the field as he aims to turn the corner after making only one cut in the last six weeks.
The 19-year-old said: “I went back to see my old coach back (Steve Jessup) in New Zealand recently because I was changing my swing a lot and I was struggling over the last couple of months. But after seeing my coach, I started to hit it really straight so I’m looking forward to playing well this week.
“I was very disappointed with my new swing for a very long time and would sometimes think I want to quit golf because I have been hitting it so terribly. After that I realise it wasn’t the problem with how I was playing but it was more of my mental side of things as well. I’m always looking for the top stuff so that’s the problem. That was a good lesson I learned.”
A rejuvenated Clarke, who has been playing in the Malaysian Open since the mid-1990s, hopes to continue his impressive start to the season, having recorded top ten finishes in India and Africa. However, he is not taking the strong line-up this week lightly.
“I think the standard of Asian players have improved dramatically,” he said. “The quality is getting better and better, as have the courses. When you come to a golf course like this one this week you realise how much the standards have risen in Asia.”
Last year’s European Tour rookie of the year, Chris Wood of England knows he will need to adapt to the humid weather if he wants to be in contention on his debut in his event.
He said: “It’s a bit different to England at the moment. It is pretty hard to go from zero degrees to around 30, and I am told that today isn’t even that hot! These are pretty much the hottest conditions that I have played in, it’s like constantly playing in a steam room.”
“The thing that I will struggle with here is reading the greens. It is very difficult to get used to the grain here because we just don’t get that in Europe so that will be a new challenge for me,” added Wood, who turned professional in 2009 after finishing joint fifth at The 2008 Open Championship.
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