The in-form duo of Arniban Lahiri and Koumei Oda have set their sights on victory at the fourth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship, which will be played December 11-14 at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi.
Lahiri, who captured the recent Venetian Macau Open in dramatic fashion, has climbed to number 69 in the Official World Golf Ranking and currently lies in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, a shade under US$155,000 behind David Lipsky of the United States.
A strong performance at the Thailand Golf Championship, the Asian Tour’s US$1 million flagship event, would aid the 27-year-old Indian ace, who starred for Asia at the inaugural EurAsia Cup early in the year, in achieving two of his season’s goals – namely, win the money list and break into the world’s top 50 players for the first time.
“The Thailand Golf Championship is such a big event, there’s so much at stake,” said Lahiri, who has now racked up five Asian Tour wins. “The world ranking points on offer at Amata Spring are crucial, so to have a big week there would be great for my career and would definitely help me achieve my goals for the year.”
Lahiri finished in a tie for fourth behind winner Sergio Garcia at the 2013 installment of the event but will face strong opposition in his quest to finish three spots higher this time around.
Garcia has confirmed he will return to defend his title and will be joined by Ryder Cup teammates Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, South African legend Ernie Els and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke are also included in the star-studded field.
“The Thailand Golf Championship was one of my best events last year,” added Lahiri. “I played with Sergio [Garcia] and Henrik Stenson in the final round and it was a really great week. It’s one of those weeks I really look forward to each year.”
Oda, who held off the challenge of Hiroyuki Fujita to win the Japan Golf Tour’s Bridgestone Open last month, will be making his debut at the Thailand Golf Championship. But after two wins this season, as well as a confidence-boosting performance at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia, the 36-year-old, who boosted his world ranking to 55 after that Bridgestone win, is bullish about his chances.
“I don’t get to play that often in Southeast Asia but I’m excited about the challenge of playing in Thailand, said Oda, who will line up alongside fellow Japan Golf Tour highflier and EurAsia Cup partner Kim Hyung-sun of Korea at Amata Spring. “I’ve been swinging the club really of late and I love the look of the course. There are a great many stars to beat, but I’m feeling very good about my chances.”
Thailand will be well represented in the elite field by local heroes Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, but it is the form of their compatriot Prom Meesawat that has many Thai golf fans dreaming of a first home winner.
Meesawat, nicknamed the ‘Big Dolphin’ due to his burly physique, finished in a tie for second behind Lahiri in Macau to lift the 30-year-old into fourth in the Order of Merit race.
“The Thailand Golf Championship is my home event, so it’s one of my most important of the year,” said Meesawat, who secured his first win on the Asian Tour in eight years when he emerged victorious at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in September. “To win it at Amata Spring would be the best moment of my career to date.”