Minoza settles for 2nd place
Thongchai Jaidee is congratulated by lines of caddies after winning the Volvo Masters of Asia tournament at the Thai Country Club yesterday.
Thongchai Jaidee signed off the year in spectacular style with a victory in the US$650,000 season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia at the Thai Country Club yesterday.
It was the last throw of the dice for Thongchai to maintain his proud record of winning at least a title per season since 2000. He rose to the occasion by holding off a stiff challenge from a chasing pack before sealing the narrow win with a four-round total of 11-under-par 277, one-shot ahead of Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
The victory not only helped Thongchai break his duck this year but also lifted him to second place on the UBS Order of Merit, receiving $104,000.
The 37-year-old Thongchai, heading into the final round with two-stroke lead on 11-under-par 205, seemed set to romp home following two successive birdies in his first two holes.
Thongchai's fortunes, however, suddenly changed as he dropped a shot in the par-four fifth hole. Things went from bad to worse for the former paratrooper following a double-bogey in the next hole.
The Lop Buri-born golfer got into trouble after his tee-shot found the bunker behind the pin at the tricky par-three sixth hole, the longest 3, and his sand-wedge second attempt succeeded only in falling into the nearby bunker before two-putting for a double-bogey.
The stress apparently gripped Thongchai after the setbacks but he held his nerve to bounce back with a birdie at the par-three 11th. He displayed more determination at the challenging 600-yard 14th hole where he claimed some breathing space at the top of the standings with a 14-foot birdie despite his second shot landing in the sand on the greenside.
However, Thongchai almost let the title slip through his grasp after two-putting for a double-bogey at the par-four 18th hole only to squeak to a one-shot victory.
He breathed a sign of relief after seeing the ball roll into the hole and did a wai for a large group of fans.
"I tried to hit a cut with the driver but pushed it left into the deep rough. I tried to get bogey but the second shot got into the bunker. Third shot into the rough again and I tried to go for a double bogey. Two putts for a win - it was okay," said Thongchai commenting on his play at the last hole.
He was delighted that his putting came at the best possible time to reclaim the title he won in 2003.
"I was very lucky. I tried my best. My driver and putting worked well this week. My putting was coming in and it was good. I made everything today. I just missed a few holes this week. It was very good," Thongchai said.
Despite seeing his faint hopes of a play-off all but ended when Thongchai holed his double-bogey putt, Filipino legend Minoza who at one stage tied for the lead said he was content with the result.
"This has been the best week of the year for me. I played well today and mounted a challenge before bogeying the 17th hole. I hit my approach there well but the greens are a little bit hard and it rolled into the bunker," said Minoza who blotted his card with three bogeys, the other two came at the 6th and 10th holes.
"Overall, it was the hole number six [230-yard par three] that killed me. I had a double bogey there on the first day and I bogeyed it in the third round and again today. But I'm happy with the way I played. I like this course - it suits my game."
Charlie Wi of Korea took third place after a 69 and a final total of 279.
Thaworn Wiratchant who caught Thongchai at the turn was understandably disappointed after seeing his challenge backfire with double late blows - a bogey at the par-four 15th hole and double-bogey at par-three 16th hole.
"Two bad shots ruined my chances today. Apart from them I played well. At the 15th hole I drove into the rough and was blocked a bit by a tree. I had 130 yards to carry the water and took an eight iron … I thought it would be okay. But I only hit the shot 40 per cent [clean] and it went into the water. I did well to drop only one shot."
"It was very difficult conditions today with hard greens and a strong wind. I am very happy with how I played apart from those two shots. It is not a good feeling to lose like that," bemoaned Thaworn who finished his round with one-over-par 73 for a total of eight-under-par 280, which gave him sole fourth place.
Despite failing to bring the curtain down on his tremendous year which saw him accede to the Asian Tour's throne with another trophy, Indian star Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished with an even-par for the third time to lie at a disappointing joint sixth with a total of six-under-par 282, was satisfied with his overall performance in the tournament and looked forward to a break.
"My holiday starts now. I'm happy. The way I ended up today. I didn't shoot over par. I didn't hit the ball well the whole week. So, I will take that," said Singh.
"I'm just going to relax and get some work done on my wrist and party hard! I haven't thought about rewarding myself after my wonderful year. I'm just looking forward to a break and taking it easy back home."