Jaidee wraps up first win in Europe
Posted at 10:06 on 3 June 2012
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee held his nerve on a tense and testing final day at Celtic Manor to win the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
Jaidee, who held a one-stroke advantage at the start of the day, finished the tournament with the same slender advantage as he closed on six under par, one better than his four closest rivals – Thomas Bjorn, Richard Sterne, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Joost Luiten and Richard Sterne.
Ross Fisher, one of the heroes of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, and Paul McGinley, a vice-captain for that memorable victory over the Americans, finished a further shot behind in a tie for sixth.
It was the first victory on European soil for Jaidee who had collected all four of his previous European Tour titles in his home continent of Asia, but he was perhaps made to feel at home by the presence of the new title sponsor. ISPS – the International Sports Promotion Society – was founded by Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa, and has sponsored many events on the Asian Tour before its first venture onto the European Tour with this week’s ISPS Handa Wales Open.
“I want to say thank you to all my family, all the supporters and the sponsors here,” he said. “Conditions were quite tough for me.
“I tried to hit everything on the fairway - that’s the main thing - then hit the ball on the green. It was very, very tough for me, not like Thailand!”
Overnight leader Jaidee had exchanged places at the top of the leaderboard with Fisher and Luiten on a windy and drizzly day but held a three-shot advantage when he birdied the 15th after a delicate pitch.
But he gave the pack gathering at five under par some encouragement when he dropped a shot at the 16th and then found the bunker at the back of the 18th green. Luiten applied the pressure by pitching to 10 feet but was unable to hole the putt and Jaidee could afford to take bogey and still claim the £300,000 winner’s prize, the highest pay cheque of his career.
Denmark’s Bjorn, another member of the 2010 Ryder Cup backroom team, and Sterne, a former champion at Celtic Manor, both shot 68, and Fernandez-Castano bettered them with a 67. McGinley had earlier shot the round of the day with a 65 to set the clubhouse lead.
The joint runners-up finish and almost €150,000 in prize money pushed Fernandez-Castano and Bjorn closer to qualification for this year’s Ryder Cup team and Paul Lawrie consolidated his second spot on the points list by tying for 14th.
Fisher had spent the week rekindling fond memories of the last Ryder Cup but left with a sour taste in his mouth after being penalised a shot for slow play when only one stroke off the lead.