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Thongchai Triumphs by Three Shots in Myanmar Open

Travel News Asia 16 February 2004

Thongchai Jaidee marched to his second victory in two months at the US$200,000 Myanmar Open Sunday after firing a three-under-par 69 in the final round at Yangon Golf Club.

The Thai star triumphed by three shots over American Andrew Pitts, who carded a 71, and picked up the winner's cheque of US$32,300. Thongchai accumulated a winning total of 12-under-par 276 and joined compatriot Boonchu Ruangkit as the tournament's only two-time winners, having won here in 2002.

Korean-born Australian Unho Park continued to impress by finishing third following a fine 67 while Singapore's Mardan Mamat and halfway leader Alistair Presnell shared fourth place on 282, six behind the winner.

"I've very happy," said a jubilant Thongchai. "It seems like I always do well here in the Myanmar Open. I feel like my game is very good right now."

In what turned into an enthralling matchplay duel on the back nine, Thongchai had to dig deep into his reserves at the sun-baked Yangon layout to prevail. He started the day one ahead of Pitts but stumbled to a 37 on the front nine as the American took a two-shot lead with birdies on the fifth and sixth.

Both players bogeyed the 10th but Thongchai soon drew level following a two-shot swing on the par three 11th which the Thai birdied and Pitts bogeyed after missing the green.

Pitts agonisingly dropped his third straight shot at 12 to hand the advantage again to Thongchai, who then turned on his style. He birdied 14 from two feet and then struck three birdies in a row from the 16th to wrap up the title in front a large gallery.

"I didn't panic after falling behind. I knew that I could catch Andrew as I like the back nine on this course," said Thongchai, who hit home in 32. "I kept telling myself to hit fairways and greens and I just struck some nice wedge shots close to the pins for birdies."

Pitts tipped his cap to the winner. "I played flawlessly on the front nine but then made some small mistakes which are magnified on this course. But Thongchai responded like the true champion that he is. He hit some really good shots on 14 and 16 to pull ahead.

"I eagled the par five 17th after hitting a three wood to three feet and thought that would put pressure on Thongchai but he got up and down from the greenside bunker for birdie on the same hole to keep a two-shot lead, which very much sealed it for him," said Pitts.

Thongchai, Asia's number one in 2001, has now earned over US$213,000 in his last five events. In mid-December, he won the Volvo Masters of Asia on home soil, which came a week after failing to secure his US PGA Tour card. Since then, the former soldier has grown from strength to strength, finishing 10th, eighth and tied fourth in his last three starts before this week's triumph.

Victory in Myanmar was also Thongchai's fifth career success in Asia and it further extended his lead in the career earning rankings where he has won over US$1.16 million since 1999.

Singapore-based Park bogeyed his first hole but hit four birdies on the trot to surge up the leaderboard. He then birdied 16 and 17 for third place. "I hit some good shots which seem to be a continuation of how I've played in recent weeks. I had a good start but I didn't think I was in with a chance as I felt Thongchai would play a few under par."

Myanmar's Aung Win finished as the top local player once again at tied ninth position after shooting a 74 to end with a four-day total of 285.

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