“It’s lovely to be back obviously and winning last year makes it a bit more special,” said the 42-year-old, who also claimed the title in 2011.
“For me it’s important to try and get into the top-50 in the world, with the entry that gives you to the top events. So it’s nice to face a good field here and play for lots of points.”
Westwood was joined on stage Wednesday by two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, veteran Thai star Thongchai Jaidee and teenage Thai sensation Danthai Boonma as the buildup continued towards the first round.
“The golf course is in great condition again, they’ve assembled a great field, so we’re all set for great week,” said Westwood.
Last year, the Englishman produced a final round for the ages as his five-under-par 67 took him to a one-stroke victory over Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Australian Marcus Fraser.
Westwood has arrived on the outskirts of Bangkok full of confidence following a season that saw him capture his third victory at the Indonesian Open back in April and fresh from hearing the news that Clarke had selected him as a captain’s pick for next month’s EurAsia Cup.
“I’ve always played pretty well in Asia,” said Westwood, who has been paired with Kaymer and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng in the first round.
“That was the third time I’ve won that tournament in Indonesia so it would be nice to win this one for a third time too. I’ve won here a couple of times so my confidence is pretty high. The golf course fits my eye.”
Watson has rushed around the globe following his victory in the PGA Tour’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Sunday – and he wouldn’t have things anything other way.
“The golf course is beautiful and the fans treat us really nice,” said the 37-year-old American. “The tournament is going in the right direction. They are trying to grow the tournament and grow the game of golf.”
Thai veteran Thongchai – three-time winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit and 18-times a title-holder across an illustrious career – agreed the Thailand Golf Championship was one of the main drivers of the development of the game not just in his home country but in terms of the entire region as well.
“We have a strong field here this year and the young players can learn from these great players,” said the 46-year-old, who in September added the European Open to his collection of championships.
“The feeling is very positive for the future and for the development of the game in Asia.”
That’s a fact reflected by the event’s role as part of The Open Qualifying Series, with four places at the 145th staging of the world’s oldest major at Royal Troon next July up for grabs.
For 19-year-old star Danthai, fresh from his maiden Asian Tour victory in Singapore last month, it’s an opportunity that adds incentive for the whole field but especially to the young legion of Asian golfers who have always dreamed of playing on the greatest stages the game presents.
“It will be tough as the field is strong but I will try my best,” said Danthai. “I am really excited to play this week. Winning has opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
The 47-year-old Clarke knows all about the allure of the Claret Jug, having won The Open in 2011 and he agreed being part of The Qualifying Series had added an extra sheen of prestige to the Thailand Golf Championship.
“It’s called The Open for a reason,” said Clarke. “It gives people all around the world an opportunity to qualify and come and play. The more people that have the opportunity to come and play the better. That’s how it should be.”
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).