CASTLE STUART, United Kingdom (AFP) – Three Thailand-born golfers will compete in next week's British Open at Muirfield for the first time in the event's history.
Thongchai Jaidee will be contesting golf's oldest major for the sixth time, and a fifth in succession, and will be joined by Thaworn Wirachant, competing in his second British Open, and Kiradeck Aphibarnrat, who will be teeing up in a very first Major championship.
Thongchai made his Open debut at Muirfield when the championship was last staged there in 2002.
However, he was forced out with a back injury after an agonizing first round 80. Thaworn was a lone Thai-born contestant when he competed in his maiden Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
While Thongchai and Kiradeck qualified through the European Tour, Thaworn finished first by four strokes in an Asian International Qualifier in Bangkok last March.
So now with a country boasting some 200 courses, and around 400,000 annual overseas visitors to play golf, Thailand has three of their top players teeing up next Thursday on one of the oldest golf courses in the world.
"It is going to be a very special British Open this year for my country, Thailand," said Thongchai at Castle Stuart where he is contesting the Scottish Open.
"It is amazing a small country like Thailand can have three players competing in the same Major Championship so I am sure we are going to have a lot of support.
"Also it will help each of us in terms of encouragement knowing that there are also two other Thailand golfers competing."
Thongchai has captured 16 wins in his career, including last year's Wales Open on the European Tour and is also a triple Asian Tour number one.
Thaworn holds an Asian Tour record of having won 15 tournaments in his career since 1996 and is a double Asian Tour number one having captured a second money list title last year.
The 23-year-old Kiradeck burst onto the international stage earlier this year in capturing the Malaysian Open title.
And if there is one piece of advice Thongchai can offer the big-hitting Kiradeck, whose average drive on the European Tour this year is 295.5 yards, and that is to put the brakes on his driver.
"Muirfield, like all the British Open courses, will be set up strategically so the key is to keep it on the fairways," said Thongchai.
"It will be course where the driver is not important and it will be the long irons that you use continually.
"Also is very important not to miss the greens as you just can't afford to short side yourself on any of them.
"I've had dinner a few times with Kiradeck and talked to him about what he will expect next week and he and I, and Thaworn, will play a couple of practice rounds together next week so that should help him.
"We are all staying in the same hotel and besides he's a very good player, and I feel he can go very well next week."
Thongchai's best finish in a British Open was 13th in 2009 at Turnberry and after a season this year where he was runner-up to former US Open champion, Graeme McDowell in the World Match-Play Championship in Bulgaria, he is looking forward to tackling Muirfield.
"Of course growing up in Thailand I never played links golf but having now played over here in Europe for nearly 12 years I am getting more used to and like playing links golf," he said.
"I have had a good season going so close to victory in Bulgaria and it was that result that helped secure my place in the British Open. So I am very much looking forward to going to Muirfield."