Asian stars aiming for an upset

Asian Tour stars Thongchai Jaidee and S.S.P. Chowrasia will be out to upset the PGA Tour stars in Malaysia this week.

Asian Tour stars Thongchai Jaidee and S.S.P. Chowrasia hope to overcome putting woes as they seek to launch title challenges at the US$6.1 million CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia starting on Thursday.

The duo are amongst a 10-man Asian Tour contingent who are chasing the top prize of US$1.3 million at the Mines Resort and Golf Club. The CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.

Chowrasia and Thongchai said today they must light up their putters to contend against a field which includes Major winners Vijay Singh, Lucas Glover, Angel Cabrera and Stewart Cink. Ben Crane is defending his title this week.

“I’m putting better in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling with my putting for quite a while but I’m more confident now. I got no complaints about my driver and iron shots. If I can putt well, I think I have a good chance,” said Thailand’s Thongchai, who is a three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.

A two-time winner of the Malaysian Open, Thongchai was happy to be back in familiar territory as he prepares to improve on his tied 29th finish at the inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia last year.

“It is nice to be back here again. I’ve played here many times and I like this course. I practised here yesterday (Monday) and the greens are fantastic. The set-up is very good,” said Thongchai, who holds a record 13 victories on the Asian Tour.

“I love the course. The course is fantastic. The greens are very fast. There has been a lot of rain here but the course is still in good shape. There are a couple of challenging holes like ninth hole. There are also a few short par fours. I’m feeling very confident and I’m getting better. I’ve been working very hard on my game because I haven’t really performed this year. Putting will be very important,” he said.

Thongchai has been worried about the floods which have hit his country badly over the past few weeks but his family in Lopburi is so far safe from the disaster.

“I haven’t been home for the last five weeks. I call my home every day. In 42 years of my life, I’ve never seen such a bad flood in Thailand. We are all very sad about this. My family are all okay and safe,” said Thongchai, who has donated 500,000 baht to the victims of the flood.

Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Chowrasia has missed this year’s Deepavali (Diwali) celebrations today, also known as the “Festival of Lights” as he prepares to make his debut in the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia.

He said it was too difficult to turn down the opportunity of playing alongside many of the best players from the PGA Tour.

“This is the first time I’m going to miss the festival with my family. I really miss my mum and dad but this is part of my job,” said Chowrasia.

He missed 10 consecutive cuts in Asia and Europe after winning the Avantha Masters on home soil earlier this year but has bounced back into form with a tied seventh placing at the Hero Indian Open two weeks ago.

“My form was a bit down after winning because my putting was very bad. I worked on my putting with my coach and changed a bit of my swing. It showed some progress in the last few weeks so we’ll have to see how things go,” said the two-time Asian Tour winner.

Chowrasia believes the Asian Tour stars will have a chance to upstage the PGA Tour players.

Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, currently second on the Order of Merit, Bangladeshi Siddikur, who finished tied 11th at the CIMB event last year, and Jeev Milkha Singh of India, a two-time Asian Tour number one, will be in the field as well.

Thai duo Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Chinnarat Phadungsil will also feature in the event alongside Chan Yih-shin of Chinese Taipei and Asian Tour members Jbe Kruger of South Africa and Australian David Gleeson, winner of the Hero Indian Open.