May 25: Thai legend Thongchai Jaidee enjoyed a joint runner-up finish at the BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth on Sunday, a result which pushed him up to 35th position in the latest Official World Golf ranking.
The three-time Asian Tour number one shot a closing three-under-par 69 to share second place with Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was his opposing captain at the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia last year, as they finished a distant six shots behind Korean winner Byeonghun An.
Y.E. Yang of Korea, an Asian Tour honorary member, finished tied 22nd while Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat shared 27th place. Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion David Lipsky and Prom Meesawat of Thailand were amongst those who were tied 35th while India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri finished joint 51st and 55th respectively.
Thongchai tried to keep up pace with a dominant An by getting to four under through 12 holes before a lone bogey of the day on 13 snuffed out his title charge.
“Very good to come in second, pretty good for me,” said Thongchai.
“I know I have had a top‑10 here before. I have no complaints about my game this week. I had a fantastic game, putting, everything is coming back. My driving was a little bit shaky but my putter was good.
“I played solid on the front nine. I never missed anything, only one, up-and‑down (for par). I had only one bad hole, and missed a short putt. Missed a birdie on the last hole (for second on his own). It’s good for me to finish second. I can’t complain.”
An, 23, secured his maiden title on the European Tour with a majestic closing round of 65 to confirm his promise as a top golfer as he established a new tournament record of 21-under-par 267. He was the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2009.
Thongchai was impressed with An. “Yeah, nice to see an Asian boy win the tournament. This is a big tournament in Europe. I think he played really solid. It’s very good to see. He’s very young. He can be a star player in the future.”
An hailed a “life-changing” victory, saying: “It’s like a fifth Major to me. It’s the biggest title I have won and gets me into a lot of events. This is life-changing. I’m still really excited and over the moon right now.
“It was great to go into the last hole with a six-shot lead and I love that I’m the first Asian to win this event. It’s great.”
Thongchai earned € 434,275 for his fine effort to move up to seventh place on the European rankings. He also moved up from his previous 51st position in the world ranking to 35th, which will reinforce his bid to qualify for the International Team in the Presidents Cup in October.
In Japan, Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, a former Asian Tour number one, finished fifth in the Kansai Open, won by former Asian Tour regular Daisuke Kataoka. Countryman Angelo Que and China’s Liang Wen-chong, also a former Order of Merit champion, were amongst those who shared 18th position.