Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and Spanish star Sergio Garcia, both fresh from exhilarating recent wins, are hungry for victory at Thursday’s $1 million (Dh 3.67m) Thailand Golf Championship.
World No 4 Watson played superbly last week to claim the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Meanwhile Garcia held his nerve in a thrilling four-way play-off in the Asian Tour’s Ho Tran Open in Vietnam – his first win in nearly two years.
The Thai tournament offers Watson the chance to break his duck at the Amata Spring Country Club, while Garcia is returning to a course that has been good to him – he won here in 2013.
In a strong field, defending champion Lee Westwood also returns, hunting a third win in this fifth edition of the Asian Tour’s flagship event.
It is the big-hitting Watson’s fourth appearance in the tournament and he is desperate to add the trophy to his impressive haul – which includes taking the celebrated Green Jacket in 2012 and 2014.
“I love playing this course and I love Thailand,” said Watson, who last year gave his prize-winnings to a local charity.
“The golf course is beautiful and the fans treat us nice.”
Coming back on statements he made in the Bahamas that if he took top spot he would quit playing, the affable Watson said he would probably stop playing on the PGA Tour if that happened and just enter occasional tournaments.
But he quickly played down the prospect saying: “let’s be honest, I don’t think it is very likely that I will become No 1”.
Garcia who is currently ranked 12th in the world was pleased with his improved form after a relatively dry spell.
He said the nail-biting win in Vietnam, secured on the second play-off hole, was a big confidence boost going into Thailand.
The formidable line-up also includes former US Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany and England’s Ryder Cup star Westwood, who has soaked up the success in Thailand.
“I always seem to play well in Asia,” said Westwood. “I love this course which is in great condition again and I am really looking forward to this tournament.”
Kaymer was runner-up to Westwood last year and plans to go one better this time. “I’m really determined to take the silverware home with me this time,” he said.
Also in the field is European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who won the 2011 Open, and Denmark’s most successful golfer Thomas Bjorn.
Leading the strong Asian challenge is the evergreen Thai Thongchai Jaidee who at the age of 46 has enjoyed a terrific year during which he won his seventh European title, rising to a career-high 28th in the world rankings.
“This is a great event and it’s tremendous to see all the stars here,” said the popular Thai. “I would love to win this event in front of my home crowd.”
Another rapidly-improving Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who won two European titles this year, will also be a player to watch.
There is also an impressive Indian representation led by veteran star Jeev Singh who captains Asia at the EurAsia Cup next month.
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