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Golf | Asia

Lee Westwood © Gallo Images

Westwood hoping for reprise of Thai Masterclass



Defending champion Lee Westwood returns to the Thailand Golf Championship on Thursday hoping to recapture his imperious form of last year in a field studded with Major-winners.

The world No 6 stormed to a seven-shot win at the inaugural event sparked by an opening round of 12-under-par 60 – narrowly missing out on a magical 59, which has never been shot on the Asian Tour.

Westwood, 39, has glowingly described it as "one of the best rounds I've ever played" and will be determined to retain his title and finish his season with a second win in Asia this year, and third overall.

But the Englishman, the top-ranked player at the event after the late withdrawal of Louis Oosthuizen with illness, will be braced for intense competition from a strong field at the Amata Spring course near Bangkok.

Masters champion Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan, Darren Clarke and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa lead the charge while the local challenge will be spearheaded by three-time Asian Tour No 1 Thongchai Jaidee.

"I'm here to win. That's everybody's goal. I'm not here to wave at everybody," Watson, yet to taste victory since April's Masters, told reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old American is using new clubs in Thailand but he vowed to show the Thai crowds some of the high-risk 'Bubba Golf', which memorably won the Masters play-off against Oosthuizen with an improvised hook shot from trees.

Mahan, who has won twice on the PGA this year and pocketed more than $4 million in prize money, arrives after undergoing corrective laser eye surgery that he says may bring a little edge to his game.

"The vision is a little bit sharper but I don't know if it will lead to lower scores or anything," he said.

Others with a point to prove include 21-year-old Ishikawa, who has never won an event outside his native Japan and has so far struggled to live up to sky-high expectations.

Flamboyant American John Daly is also on the card, but the former two-time Major winner, known for his rollercoaster personal life and on-course tantrums, admits form and confidence are not on his side.

"You never know what I'm going to do... I don't either," the plain-speaking American told reporters. "Hopefully I will play well but I don't have a lot of confidence right now."

Local support will be showered on Thongchai, one of Asia's greatest players, who is bidding to end a run of seven consecutive weeks' competition with a win on home soil.

The Thai has won five European Tour events and earned 13 Asian Tour titles, a record he shares with his compatriot and current tour Order of Merit leader Thaworn Wiratchant.

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