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Thongchai spearheads Asian challenge at Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

DOHA: Eight-time European Tour winner Thongchai Jaidee will compete in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for a 15th time next week, having last year tied India’s Jeev Milkha Singh for the most appearances (14) by an Asian player.

For the third straight year, Thongchai will be joined in the field by young compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat, his teammate in last year’s Olympics in Brazil and ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf in Australia.

Each will again bid to become the first Thai – and first Asian – to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which celebrates its landmark 20th edition at Doha Golf Club from 26-29 January.

Three-time European Tour winner SSP Chawrasia will also be part of the Asian charge, while Li Haotong of China and Wang Jeunghun of Korea – the two youngest players in last year’s Olympic Men’s Golf Competition – and Wang’s compatriot Lee Soomin will make their tournament debuts.

Team Qatar amateurs Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al Shahrani will again represent the host nation and will each seek to become the first local to make the cut in the European Tour event.

Thongchai, 47, first competed in the tournament in its fifth staging in 2002, the year a 21 year old Adam Scott lifted the Mother of Pearl Trophy for a first time before claiming it again six years later.

Thongchai was back in 2004 and has played every year since. In his 14 appearances, the evergreen Thai has finished in the top 40 on 13 occasions, including ties for ninth in 2007 and 2013.

“I always like playing in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. I have been playing there for a long time and always do pretty well.” said the former paratrooper, who only turned pro when he was 29.

“It’s a nice course, quite long, and I know it well after many years of playing there so it would be nice to get another top 10 or even challenge for the trophy.”

After winning back-to-back Malaysian Opens in 2004 and 2005, Thongchai won European Tour titles in Indonesia and Korea in 2009 at the age of 39. However, since turning 40, he has arguably played the finest golf of his career, winning titles in Europe in 2012 (Wales), 2014 (Sweden), 2015 (Germany) and 2016 (France).

Kiradech, 27, is on his way to emulating his famed compatriot. Like Thongchai, Kiradech won his first European title at the Malaysian Open, in 2013. Two years later, ‘Asia’s John Daly’ won both the Shenzhen International in China – where he beat Li in a playoff – and the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Matchplay in Scotland.

Hassan Al Naimi, President of the Qatar Golf Association, said: “Thongchai Jaidee is a special player in world golf. Only a select few play their best golf in their mid 40s and he’s a credit to himself and his country for his approach to the game.

 “We welcome Thongchai as he makes his 15th appearance at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and wish him, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and other players from Asia all the best as they seek to become the first Asian to lift the Mother of Pearl Trophy.”

Paul Lawrie (1999, 2002), Darren Fichardt (2003), Ernie Els (2005), Alvaro Quiros (2009), Robert Karlsson (2010), Thomas Bjørn (2011) and Chris Wood (2013) are among the former winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in the field. Press Release

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