Jaidee won a three-way play-off at the first extra hole with a perfectly executed birdie on the formidable par-four 18th at the Pinx Golf Club. Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano could only manage a par after his approach had skipped into the greenside rough, and 21-year-old local boy Kang Sung Hoon missed his six-foot birdie attempt.
The 18th here at the Pinx is beginning to build quite a reputation, as it has been the stage for the climax of the Ballantine’s Championship both this year and last. In 2008, Graeme McDowell and Jeev Milkha Singh slugged it out on the 18th in a play-off that saw them play the hole three times in fading light. McDowell eventually out-shot Singh when his 7-iron approach from 169 yards stopped within three feet of the hole.
Today, with a strong wind helping, Jaidee was able to float a nine-iron in from 165 yards, which finished just four feet from the hole.
While the 18th runs downhill from the tee, it is the longest par four at Pinx, measuring 490 yards on the championship card. Golfers need to hit an accurate drive to avoid the rough on the left, complete with a second shot that would lie below their feet, and then there is plenty of water and sand to the right. The approach needs to clear a stream in front of the green that runs around to the left, while also avoiding a 30-yard long bunker that hugs the right side of the green.
“We have heard a lot of the players talking about 18,” John Paramor, chief referee of the European Tour tells Golf Monthly. “To me it is a great hole – ideal for the professional golfer to show what he is all about. The 18th is all about guts, and seeing the way different players go about playing the hole shows you a lot about what type of player they are. If you are not 100% committed to that second shot there is so much trouble waiting for you. It is a great finish to a golf course.” Well put John.
When McDowell won last year, he strode into the interview room with his first glass of Ballantine’s whisky already half-gone, and he would go on to help select the flavours for the Ballantine’s 2009 Championship Blend, of which only 15 bottles were distilled. One of the 15 was auctioned for
$11,000 to a Korean businessman earlier this week, and another was presented to Jaidee today along with a cheque for €350,000. The only problem is that the former paratrooper does not drink, but not to worry, as the 39-year-old Jaidee says, “we have a collection of the whisky in my home for all the guests. I think it’s very good, this stuff.”
Another memorable Ballantine’s Championship comes to a close, but for Jaidee it could be a new beginning, as tomorrow morning he might find himself a seat at Tour golf’s top table; among the World Ranking’s top-50 for the first time in his career, depending on results elsewhere.