Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee proved beyond anyone’s doubt yesterday that form is fleeting but class is permanent.
With an air of certainty and touch bordering on the brilliant, the 41-year-old golfing maestro produced a flawless seven-under-par round of 66, cherry picking six birdies for an aggregate of 271 to regain the US$300,000 Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open title at the picturesque Phokeethra Country Club In Siem Reap.
Undaunted by the buzz surrounding Kuboya Kenichi of Japan’s flourish and South Korean Kim Hyung-sung’s late dash to share the overnight lead, it was Jaidee – the first Asian to break into the world top 50 last year - who swiftly brought in his long range driving and precision putting.
“I was quite solid and very steady. No complaints, it has been a good week. To win in Cambodia again is exciting,” said the seasoned Thai campaigner, who won the event in 2008 and has now surpassed the $4 million mark in Asian Tour earnings.
Kenichi and Kim were left to bemoan their own lack of golfing finery in dealing with a man who was playing with the nerves of steel.
Starting the final round yesterday a stroke behind the pair, Jaidee landed a chip of great precision from a slope on the first hole to steal a birdie that served as a warning shot to the two leaders.
At no stage did Thongchai Jaidee slacken his grip, while Kuboya dropped a shot on the seventh and suffered a double bogey on the 14th to put the brakes on his title aspirations.
The eight-year hunt for a Tour success continues for the 38-year-old Japanese pro, who admitted later that this had been his best performance for some time now. For Kim, three bogeys and three birdies cancelled each other out to leave him hobbling with rage in third spot.
Three-time Order of Merit winner Jaidee reeled off three birdies in a row to finish the day on a blaze of glory, and confirm his place in Asian Tour history by becoming the first player to clinch 13 titles, one ahead of compatriot Thaworn Wiratchant, who finished yesterday in tied 13th place.
The victory boosted Jaidee’s bank balance by another $47,550 as he heads back to his homeland to wind up the season at the Black Mountain event in Hua Hin next week. Kuboya’s second was worth $32,550 while Kim picked up $18,300 for his third place finish.
A surprisingly bold charge came from India’s Aniraban Lahiri, who stormed home with a fourth round 69 to finish joint fourth with Guido Vander Valk of Netherlands at an aggregate of 274.
Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng was the talk of the town Friday when he recorded the first eagle of the tournament in the second round on the par five 17th hole.
Unbelievably, he went one better the next day when he produced a hole-in-one on the par three 16th. Despite the fireworks, he finished in tied sixth along with Ian Stell of Malaysia and defending champion Marcus Both of Australia, who was well poised for a strike at the end of Saturday’s third round but conceded ground on the final day.
It was a lesson of sorts for Thai teenage sensation Atwit Janewattananond on how the spectacular often loses out to the steady.
The 15-year-old was a raging bull on day one when he fired into second spot, but failed to keep up the pace in the next three rounds to come home in tied 23rd.