THONGCHAI JAIDEE AND RYO ISHIKAWA – THE POTENTIAL FOR AN ASIAN DOUBLE


Ryo Ishikawa will inevitably capture tremendous attention and generate immense excitement at the fourth edition of the Royal Trophy, but it is a man more than twice his age that could hold the key to a second Asian triumph.

Thai hero Thongchai Jaidee, newly installed as Asia’s Player of the Year following his unprecedented third Order of Merit triumph, will be the golfer most likely to galvanise the spectator galleries in his native country, and inspire a memorable title defence.

Thongchai will be able to look back on a truly memorable 2009 when he tees off at the Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi on 8 January 2010. Victories at the Indonesian Open and the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea took his career tally to 12 Asian Tour titles, the most wins by any player.

The Lop Buri native also claimed three other top ten finishes and did not miss a single cut as he amassed a career-high USD 981,931 in 10 tournaments.

The million dollar barrier is surely beckoning in 2010.

Thongchai also topped the Asian Tour’s stroke average category with an eye-catching 69.06 mark, well below the figures he set when winning his previous Order of Merit titles in 2001 and 2004. That is proof that even at 40 Thongchai is just getting better, and Asian Captain ‘Joe’ Ozaki will be looking to him to set the tone for the home Team, just as he did in the 2009 triumph alongside his great friend and Thai compatriot Prayad Marksaeng. They proved invincible as Asia ended Europe’s stranglehold on the Royal Trophy with a richly-deserved 10-6 when the Continents collided at the start of 2009.

The former Royal Thai Army paratrooper’s achievements in the 2009 Asian Tour are even more remarkable considering that he played the majority of the year away from Asia – in the European Tour. Thongchai was able to achieve a successful balance of dominating his home Tour while simultaneously achieving great success at many of the most prestigious European events and easily qualifying for the European Tour’s crown jewel tournament – the USD 7.5 million dollars Dubai World Championship played last November.

Captain Ozaki will surely have the option of renewing another successful partnership by teaming up another duo which combined with great success last time, US-based Korean star Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-Chong of China. The unflappable Wi enjoyed another fine season on the US Tour in 2009 including some stunning golf produced at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he finished second to Jerry Kelly – by a single stroke.

Wi and Liang hit it off instantly at the previous edition of the Royal Trophy, and the top Chinese golfer will be looking for a confidence-boosting start to 2010 as he sets out to repeat his 2008 Asian Tour Order of Merit triumph. He staged a superb defence this year, and if it had not been for Thongchai’s brilliance he would have finished miles clear of the pack. Liang comes into the Royal Trophy with great confidence and playing some of the best golf of his career – following on a solid second place finish at the prestigious Barclay’s Singapore Open.

There were no such setbacks for Ishikawa of course. He continued the meteoric rise that has earned him widespread comparisons with a young Tiger Woods as he became the youngest golfer to top the money list on any of the major Tours worldwide.

The 18-year-old won four times to dominate the Japan Golf Tour. His passion and enthusiasm will be there for all to see, just as it was when he acted as a golfing pied piper to an army of followers on his successful Royal Trophy debut.

Ishikawa has a natural partner in Japanese countryman Koumei Oda, who won two tournaments in 2009 to finish third on the Order of Merit behind his Asian team-mate.

The all-Indian combination of Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar offers a fascinating blend of experience and youth. Singh, twice an Asian Tour Order of Merit winner and one of the Continent’s most successful performers on the world stage, should prove a perfect foil for the exciting Bhullar, who made his much anticipated Asian Tour breakthrough when winning the 2009 Indonesian President Invitational.

Captain Ozaki has clearly chosen wisely as he prepares to meet the monumental challenge of a European Team that looks considerably stronger than the one so memorably dispatched in the 2009 match-up.

“The Asian Team assembled by Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki is certainly very strong and features some very strategic pairing opportunities;” said the Royal Trophy Managing Director, Lincoln Venancio.

“It promises to be a fantastic series of matches;” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The fourth edition of the Royal Trophy will take place on 8-10 January 2010 at the exclusive Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand. The Championship will feature a series of sixteen matches including the foursomes, four-ball and singles formats. The Principal Award for the winning Continent is stewardship of the perpetual solid-silver sixteen-kilogram Trophy, graciously donated by the world’s longest reigning Monarch – His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. The Royal Trophy is Co-organized in Thailand by the Sports Authority of Thailand and promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

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