Thongchai Jaidee

The brilliant Thai, winner of four European Tour events, talks to Alex Jenkins about playing with Colin Montgomerie, his compassion for Tiger Woods, the state of his own game and his life as a paratrooper in the Thai Army

HKG: [a little peeved] Monty's a terror, isn't he? Difficult to play with?
TJ: [laughs]. I've played with him a lot – we used to get paired together all the time, especially in Asia when he was number one in Europe. But no, I really enjoy playing with him. He's a great guy. He hits it so straight it's crazy. But I like playing with Monty. I learned a lot just watching him play, even though I was longer. But that's not as important in golf as accuracy. He was definitely the best at that.

HKG: But is Monty the best ever? You've played with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood ...
TJ: They're all brilliant players. Rory is so young and such a great player ... he's so long, too. Westwood is very solid. Like Monty he doesn't make many mistakes, but he's longer and just as impressive. Tiger ... well, I realised how good Tiger was when I played with him years ago. And I've played with him a few times since then as well. The way he hits the ball – the distance, even with his three-wood, is amazing. But he's also a great putter. The first time I played with him I really couldn't believe it. Everything about his game is perfect. It has to be Tiger.

HKG: Can Tiger be as good as he was again? He's half Thai, so maybe he is less guarded with you than others?
TJ: I think Tiger will win everything next year. He did a bad thing and he knows it. But it will take time [for him to get back to his best]. He's a very nice guy – I like him a lot – but I think there is nobody better. He needs time. Once he's recovered from his injury he'll be great again. Definitely.

HKG: You've been injured recently too. How's the back?
TJ: It's better. I had a nerve problem in my back and I had to change my swing a little bit because of that, but I feel OK. Once it recovers fully – I'm probably around 90 per cent at the moment – I will be better. I'm now outside the top 100 in the world rankings, but that's OK. I'm enjoying my life. I'm 42 this year, so that's alright. But I will be better next year.

HKG: How would you compare playing on the European Tour to the Asian Tour?
TJ: The tours are very different. The European Tour is a different level. The grasses are different, the weather is different – as you know it can be four seasons in one hour over there. But it seems like the greens are all the same – the same surface. Nice bent grass everywhere. That makes it nice to putt on. But the quality of golf is definitely better. I've learned a lot over there.

HKG: Talking of putting, I notice you're using a belly putter. Isn't that cheating a little?
TJ: No! I heard they may ban it, but let's see. But I hold it like a normal putter. This year I have used a short putter, belly putter, short putter, belly putter ... I'm trying everything to hole a putt! When I use the long putter it helps me to be slower on the backstroke. I think that helps me. Now I'm a bit more smooth. But I may use the short putter next week.


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