Injury-hit Thongchai aims to strike in Malaysian Open golf

March 5th, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, March 5 (IANS) Thai golf stalwart Thongchai Jaidee will be hoping that his fondness for the Maybank Malaysian Open will carry him to a record-tying third victory in five years this week. The two-time Asian Tour number one arrived in Malaysia short of tournament play or practice as he has been hit by illness and a back injury over the past three weeks. Thongchai was only cleared to compete in the US$2 million showpiece at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club by doctors on Monday.

Headlining the event alongside Thongchai include reigning Asian Tour number one Liang Wen-chong, fellow Thais Chapchai Nirat and Prayad Marksaeng while other top names are the in-form Mark Brown of New Zealand, Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke and David Howell, former US Open champion Michael Campbell and England’s Nick Dougherty.

A huge Indian contingent is led by Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur and S.S.P.Chowrasia. The Indians have been having a great season with a series of top-10 finishes and Chowrasia winning the Indian Masters.

Thongchai, winner of the Malaysian Open in 2004 and 2005 and runner-up in 2006, has been in hospital twice in recent weeks but was determined to tee up at the Maybank Malaysian Open.

“I had a viral attack at the Indian Masters and spent four days in the hospital and then I had back problems last week and was admitted to the hospital again. I could not hit the golf ball at all and had to take it easy.

“My condition is now 60 per cent now but it’s getting better. I don’t know how fast my recovery rate is but I feel much better than the past two days,” said Thongchai, who arrived on Tuesday night.

Prior to his setbacks, the former Thai paratrooper was enjoying a good run of form where he made the cut in his opening three events in the Middle East. However, a viral attack floored him in the Asian Tour’s season-opening event in India and he has since missed the next three tournaments.

Then came the back spasm which required pain killers at the hospital last weekend.

“It was probably from the gym but my sleeping position also contributed to the back pain. I sleep on the floor now. I tried to sleep on the bed but I hurt my back so it’s better if I sleep on the floor. Four days ago, I couldn’t turn or sit down, now it’s much better. As I said, I’m 60 percent now. I’m sure I will be 100 percent in two days’ time,” said Thongchai.

In between his ailments, Thongchai received an honorary doctorate in golf management from Ramkhamhaeng University in a ceremony presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn last month. The honour was given to him for his contribution and success in golf and his work in helping golf development in the country where the Thai star has a golf academy in Lopburi.

The in-form Brown, an Asian Tour regular, will be hoping to emulate what Tiger Woods has achieved this season by winning his third straight tournament at the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Back-to-back wins at the SAIL Open and Johnnie Walker Classic in India has rocketed Brown into 64th place on the world ranking after starting the season in 258th position. With an exemption in one hand for the WGC-CA Championship in the United States in two weeks time, Brown is within striking reach of breaking into the world’s top-50 which comes with a spot in the year’s first Major, the US Masters.

“It’s amazing. To talk about Augusta at the start of the year is crazy stuff. It hasn’t crossed my mind at all and I haven’t thought of that at all. I will try and concentrate for this week and hope to go to Doral (CA Championship) and play well.

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