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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    M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

    LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

    Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

    Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

    Marina Alex was second after a 68.

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    So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

    Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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    Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

    By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

    Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

    When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

    It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

    Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

    Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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    Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

    He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

    ''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

    Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

    They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

    Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

    Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

    It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

    Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

    The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

    Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

    ''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

    The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

    ''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

    The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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    Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

    Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

    ''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

    On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

    ''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

    Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

    ''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

    Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

    ''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

    Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

    First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.