Fit to be Thai Jaidee with Masters Incentive

By Associated PressApril 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee has some extra incentive to make the cut in his first Masters: A potential audience with the king.
No, not Arnold Palmer. A REAL king, with a crown and everything. If Thongchai plays well at Augusta National, it just might earn him an audience with Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thongchai Jaidee
Thongchai Jaidee is the first Thai-born player competing in the Masters Tournament.
'This was my dream before. I wanted to play, but I had no chance,' he said Wednesday after a practice round at Augusta National. 'I was very happy for my country, very proud for my country. It's news in my country.'
Thongchai (his name is pronounced TONG-chi JI-dee) is a former paratrooper who only turned professional after his military service ended seven years ago. But he's been in the top three on the Asian Tour money list each of the last five years, finishing first in 2004 and 2001. He became the first Thai-born player to win on the European Tour when he won the Malaysian Open in 2004, and defended the title the following year.
He's also played in the other three major championships, finishing 52nd at last year's British Open and 74th at the U.S. Open in 2001. He played in the last two PGA Championships, missing the cut each time.
But none of that compares to playing in the Masters.
The Masters often gives exemptions to foreign players who wouldn't qualify otherwise, and Thongchai had hoped to get an invitation last year. He didn't, and was thrilled to learn two weeks ago that he was being included in this year's field.
Thongchai, 36, is only the second Thai-born golfer to play at Augusta, and the first since Sukree Onsham in 1971. Sukree also played in 1970, but didn't make the cut either year.
'This is a very, very big tournament,' he said. 'No. 1 in the world.'
So big that he used to go to bed early, sleep for a few hours and then wake up at 2 a.m. to watch it live.
'This is the tournament he wants to be in,' said Posom Meeposum, Thongchai's caddie. 'He's enjoying himself right now.'
He certainly looked at home Wednesday. Though he's only 5-foot-7 and 168 pounds, he's got a smooth, compact stroke that gets surprising distance. He repeatedly outdrove playing partner K.J. Choi, and his tee shot on the 460-yard, par-4 No. 9 left him an easy wedge shot to the green.
'He can hit it,' Posom said. 'Most people are surprised because he is a small guy. But he packs some power.'
Though he was stunned at how big the crowds were Monday, he looked as if he's gotten used to them. He stopped several times to chat with fans, and he smiled and twirled his driver when someone yelled, 'Nice shot!' as he walked off the No. 8 tee.
It helps that he's got his own cheering section. Charlie Niyomkul, an Atlanta restaurant owner who catered Vijay Singh's champions dinner in 2001, is related to Thongchai by marriage, and he's brought his whole family for the week.
'It's historical for us,' Niyomkul said. 'The whole country is very proud of what he does.'
Thongchai grew up in Lop Buri, about 95 miles north of Bangkok. His father worked in a factory and his mother in a hospital, and the family didn't have much money.
Thongchai played soccer, the national sport, when he was young, and was good enough to represent his province. But his family lived near a golf course, and many of Thongchai's friends were caddies there.
'I saw everybody having fun at the golf course, so I thought I'd try it,' he said.
Only problem was, he was only 12 then and didn't have money for clubs.
One of his caddie friends scrounged up the very old, very worn head of a Wilson 3-iron. Not the whole club, mind you, just the head. But Thongchai improvised, attaching the head to a bamboo stick.
He played with that one 'club' for two years.
'I have one club for 10 (shots),' he joked. 'Bunker, pitching wedge -- all one club.'
Thongchai's friends kept their eyes out for other discards, and he eventually got a full set of clubs. He didn't have formal training, tagging along whenever his friends were allowed to play the course.
'I wasn't good,' he said. 'I just tried.'
He finally got the chance to hone his game when he joined the army at 18. Though he served as a paratrooper and made over 50 jumps, he also had plenty of time to play golf. He had a solid amateur career, winning the individual titles in both Singapore and Thailand in 1998, and had quick success when he turned professional the following year.
He finished in the top 10 in five of the 14 tournaments he played his first season. Two years later, he was first on the Asian tour money list. In 2002, he tied for second at the BMW Asian Open, which also counts on the European tour.
He'd like to play on the PGA Tour next year. First, though, there's the Masters.
'It's an honor for me,' he said. 'I never thought I'd have the chance.'
And if things go well, maybe he'll have a chance to meet the king.
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''