Great field at Thailand Championship
BY Asian Tour | Asian Tour | 2013 Thailand Golf Championship | Preview | 10 Dec 2013
Bangkok, December 10: Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose of England, ranked third and fourth in the world, are aiming to end their glorious season on a high note at the Thailand Golf Championship which starts on Thursday.
Stenson, the first man to win the Race to Dubai and PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, and Rose, who lifted his first Major title at the U.S. Open in June, will headline a star-studded cast at the US$1 million Asian Tour full-field tournament at the magnificent Amata Spring Country Club.
Other top names include current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, former Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson, Spanish Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia, colourful American Rickie Fowler, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and title holder Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
“I’ve had the season of my life obviously,” said the 37-year-old Stenson, who arrived at the Royal Thai Navy Hall located on the banks of the Chao Phraya river which overlooks the Grand Palace by boat.
“I’ve played some great golf from the summer onwards, and this is my last event of the year, so I hope to finish off with some good playing here. It’s been a big year for me and it’s going to take some great golfing to match that going forward,” added the Swede, who enjoyed a golden summer which included three victories in America and Europe plus top-three finishes at the Open Championship and U.S. PGA Championship.
Fresh from a fourth place finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, Stenson conceded he would need to muster every ounce of energy to ensure he signs off the year on a winning note in his debut appearance at the Thailand Golf Championship, which is celebrating its third edition this week.
“We’re kind of running on fumes at this stage, but I’ll try and squeeze another good four days out of myself and my game, and try and challenge these boys for the title. I’ve played at Amata Spring a couple times in the past. So, at least I know the course pretty well,” said the Swede, who holds 16 victories in his career.
Like Stenson, Rose is also making his first appearance at the Thailand Golf Championship and will be looking to end his spectacular season on a strong note.
“My first 15 hours has been fantastic. We’ve been treated well, the hotel is fantastic and turning up for a press conference by boat and seeing some iconic landmarks in Bangkok is a perfect way to start the week,” said the 33-year-old Rose.
He said winning the U.S. Open will forever remain as one of the major highlights of his life. “Wining a Major, it’s still sinking in,” he admitted.
“It’s an amazing feeling and a lot of relief. A lot of great players haven’t won a Major and to get that monkey off my back is fantastic. To also do it on Father’s Day, it was an amazing feeling to share with my late father. I’ve seen my good friends Rory (McIlroy) and GMac (Graeme McDowell) hugging their fathers (after winning the U.S. Open) and I thought I would never feel that. I was surprised how good it felt, I could feel my late dad was with me that day.
“It takes off a lot of pressure. As a kid growing up, I always dreamed of winning a Major and it’s nice to have that. At this point of my career, it’s not time to reminisce; I am motivated to win more,” added Rose.
Garcia is making his third straight appearance in the Thailand Golf Championship where he finished fourth last year. The swashbuckling Spaniard said he was eager to finally win at Amata Spring and follow in the footsteps of Schwartzel last year and England’s Lee Westwood in 2011.
“They (organisers) do a great job, even though the tournament, it’s quite young, I think Khun Sarath Ratanavadi (Executive Director of Amata Spring) and the people at the club have done an amazing job. The tournament’s been getting stronger and stronger every year. It should be a very exciting, great week,” said Garcia.
Fowler will be hoping to celebrate his 25th birthday on Friday with a win in his first start at the Thailand Golf Championship. “I feel like I have a bit of connection to the Asian countries, being a quarter Japanese. I’m looking forward to spending some time in Japan the next few years, and definitely playing more throughout Asia,” said the American.
A stellar Asian Tour cast which consists of five Order of Merit champions, eight of the current top-10 players on the rankings and 48 Tour champions will feature in the tournament this week.
Home star Thongchai Jaidee, the only man to win three merit crowns and named last week as Asian captain for the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM against Europe, will be amongst the star attractions at Amata Spring.
Australians in the field include Wade Ormsby who has found a good vein of form of late, David Gleeson, Scott Barr, Andrew Dodt, Darren Beck, Marcus Both, Unho Park, Matthew Stieger, Jake Higginbottom, Ryan McCarthy, Sam Brazel, Adam Groom, David Lutterus and recently turned professional Brady Watt.