Just two days after completing his victory at the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Watson was answering questions at a packed press conference at the Amata Spring Country Club on the outskirts of Bangkok on the eve of his fourth consecutive appearance at the Asian Tour’s US$1 million flagship event.
Brushing aside any concerns of the jet-lag that inevitably comes with making a journey from the other side of the world, Watson was full of enthusiasm for an event that, he says, just keeps getting better and better.
This week’s marks the fifth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship and the second time the event has been a part of The Open Qualifying Series, which offers four spots at next year’s Open at Royal Troon for those players who haven’t already qualified.
“When I met the family that wanted to put on this tournament a few years’ back and was asked about playing in the Thailand Golf Championship, I said ‘Yeah, I would love to come over here,’” said the 36-year-old left-hander.
“The golf course is beautiful and the fans treat us really nice. What they’ve been able to do is make the tournament better each year and when you bring in the qualifying for The Open, that obviously means the tournament is going in the right direction. They’re growing the tournament and growing the game of golf.”
Watson made headlines at the weekend for claiming he’d retire from the game if ever he made it to becoming the world’s number one-ranked player and reiterated his stance yesterday – with an important caveat.
“I would quit playing the PGA Tour and I would just play some events here and there if I became number one in the world. But let’s be honest, am I really going to become number one in the world?” he asked.
“There’s three good players in front of me that are way ahead. Even if I won this week I wouldn’t catch any of them. But at the same time, we’ve seen great athletes come back from retirement so I could always be persuaded.
Michael Jordan did pretty well when he retired and came back so there’s always that chance I could do that too. But again, am I going to be number one in the world? Probably not.”
Heading into the Thailand Golf Championship, Watson has been paired for Thursday’s opening round with European Tour Rookie of the Year An Byeong-hun of South Korea and Thai superstar Thonghai Jaidee.
The world number four said he was fresh, raring to go and keen once again to test his skills against Amata Spring Country Club’s signature “island hole”, which requires a short boat ride to reach the green.
“Last week was a good week, travelling here is a different week,” said Watson. “I’ve never really played well here but I love it here. I love the golf course and we all enjoy taking the boat and feeding the fish on the way to the number 17 green. It’s always fun.”
About the Thailand Golf Championship
Organized by Gulf Sports Management and IMG, and sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the fifth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship will be staged at the award-winning Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi between 10-13 December. The Championship, the Asian Tour’s season-ending event, has a total prize purse of US$1 million, and has been part of the Open Qualifying Series since 2014. The Thailand Golf Championship will be broadcast globally by Asian Tour Media and in Thailand by TrueVisions.
Former winners of the Championship are: Lee Westwood (2011), Charl Schwartzel (2012), Sergio Garcia (2013) and Lee Westwood (2014).