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Wood relishes trip down memory lane

Chris WoodBANGKOK, Feb 20 - England’s Chris Wood credits his Thailand Open victory on OneAsia last year as being “massive” for his career and he is relishing the prospect of defending the title against a top-class field next month.

Wood kicked on from his maiden career win last August with his first triumph on the European Tour at last month’s Qatar Masters where he closed the deal in spectacular style by eagling the final hole to pip Spanish star Sergio Garcia and South African George Coetzee by a shot.

“I might not have won today if I had not won in Thailand,” said Wood after his brilliant finish. “That was massive for me.”

Wood, tipped for stardom since finishing fifth as an amateur in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 2008, features in a stellar line-up for the US$1 million Thailand Open at Thana City Golf & Sports Club from March 14-17.

Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington from Ireland headlines OneAsia’s season-opening event along with countryman Paul McGinley, recently announced as European  captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup, Asian number one and local hero Thaworn Wiratchant, Japanese legend Shingo Katayama and Kim Kyung-tae, a rising star of Korean golf.

In a landmark development, the Thailand Open will be joint-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) for the first time, with earnings counting towards both money lists.

Towering Wood, one of the tallest players in world golf at 1.96 metres (6ft 5ins), snared his first professional win at last year’s Thailand Open, a final round 67 giving him a 23-under-par total of 265 and a two-shot victory over Jang Dong-kyu, also of Korea.

The Thailand duo of Arnond Vongvanij and Wisut Artjanawat also pushed him all the way before settling for a share of third place and Wood said the experience he gained from victory at Suwan Golf & Country Club had helped him close out the Qatar Masters.

“I had been in contention several times without getting across the finishing line, but the win (at the Thailand Open) removed any doubt I might have had about having what it takes to win,” he commented.

“I gained enormous confidence and also invaluable experience I was able to draw on later.”

Small LogoWood will be in uncharted territory when he defends a title for the first time next month and hopes he will experience positive vibes on his return to Thailand.

“There are so many memories (from last year) and they will all remain with me because it was my breakthrough win since turning professional,” said the current world number 59.

“From the high standard of the course and field, to receiving the trophy and celebrating afterwards, it was an unforgettable experience. I enjoyed everything about my last visit – the country, culture, people, cuisine… and of course the win.

“Hopefully I will be able to draw on all the wonderful memories I had of Thailand on my last visit and that should ease any pressure I may feel (about defending a title for the first time).”

With the Thailand Open moving to Thana City Golf & Sports Club this year, Wood has asked a couple of fellow pros about the course.

“I won’t know what to expect until I sample it myself, but from the few (people) I know who have been to Thana City, I know we will be in for a stiff, but fair test,” he said.

And the 25-year-old Wood is aware that the up-and-coming generation of Asian players will be keen to knock him off his perch.

“The standard of play from the Far East grows year on year and I expect there will be more home grown talent pushing this time,” he said.