Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee, seen here winning the Nordea Open in Sweden last month, will be hoping to win his first Major title at the British Open in Liverpool next week. - AFP
LONDON, July 12, 2014 (AFP) - In-form Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee heads into next week's British Open with his confidence in full bloom as he seeks to challenge the world's best for a major victory.
The triple Asian Tour number one has enjoyed an outstanding run of form with one victory and two top-five finishes in his last four tournaments on European soil to rise to a career high 34th on the world rankings.
With his game in full groove, the 44-year-old star hopes to contend at The Open Championship where his best performance remains a tied 13th finish at Turnberry in 2009.
"Playing at The Open has been very challenging to me. Regardless of how good or bad the form is, if you can't catch the tempo during the week, then you realize it's a tough job," he told Asian Tour News.
"For me, coming into the Open is always the same. I keep having the belief that I can shoot better and better scores but I do not want to think too much about the finish position."
Thongchai claimed a second title on European soil at the Nordea Masters in Sweden last month, defeating local hero Henrik Stenson and followed up with a fifth place finish in Germany and a joint second outing at the French Open where he finished one shot shy of winner Graeme McDowell last weekend.
"I still feel great about my game. I've been playing up to my expectation especially last week in France. I feel confident going to The Open," said the Thai.
With an unprecedented three Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns and 13 career victories in Asia and two in Europe, Thongchai is well regarded as one of the finest ever Asian golfers.
But despite his enormous success, the former paratrooper longs for a major breakthrough.
A career-best sixth place at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in the United States earlier this season has only reinforced his self-belief that he has the game and mind to top a world-class field.
Five years ago at Turnberry, Thongchai had a sniff at winning the Claret Jug when he entered the final day just four shots off the lead before finishing equal 13th after closing with a disappointing two-over-par 72. Stewart Cink defeated 59-year-old Tom Watson in a play-off that year.
"Asian players have more opportunities to win major championship as time goes by," said Thongchai.
"I learned two things from my experience in 2009. One is that anyone can win a big event as long as you play well that week. I felt so good with my performance that year.
"But on the other hand, I also learned that in order to win a major, playing good might not be good enough. You need to play your very best. My experience from 2009 will give me more confidence when I go to Royal Liverpool."
Firmly established in the world's top-50 now, the evergreen Thongchai, is keen to stay in the mix with the world's elite for as long as possible.
Other top Asian hopes for a first win for the continent at the British Open include current Asian Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India, reigning number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, plus battle-hardened Koreans K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang.
Yang remains the only Asian player to have won a major title - at the 2009 PGA Championship where he bettered Tiger Woods down the hone stretch.
Up-and-coming Hideki Matsuyama will lead the Japanese challenge alongside Masanori Kobayashi, Yoshinobu Tsukada and Koumei Oda.