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Originally published Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 6:11 AM

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Thongchai hoping to qualify for Masters

Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee is hoping to qualify for the Masters by improving his ranking with a victory at the Avantha Masters this week.

The Associated Press

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GREATER NOIDA, India —

Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee is hoping to qualify for the Masters by improving his ranking with a victory at the Avantha Masters this week.

Thongchai, an Asian Tour Order of Merit winner three times, is ranked 59th after three top-10 finishes in five starts this season. A top-50 ranking by the end of the month would qualify him for Augusta National.

He became the first Thai in 35 years to appear at the Masters in 2006 thanks to a special invitation, and he missed the cut. He qualified with a top-50 ranking in 2010 but withdrew with an elbow injury after a first-round 74.

"It's an important week for me as I want to break into the top 50 and get into the Masters," Thongchai said Wednesday. "I'm very comfortable with my swing and if I can putt well, I believe I stand a good chance."

Among those in the field at Jaypee Greens are six European Ryder Cup players: Colin Montgomerie, Edoardo Molinari, Ignacio Garrido, David Howell, Thomas Levet and Philip Price.

Montgomerie, a record eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner, said his interest in India stretched beyond playing golf.

"India is unquestionably one of the world's biggest growth areas for golf," Montgomerie said. "Having recently added a project in (coastal city) Goa to my golf course design portfolio, I hope to play my part in the development of the game in India."

All three former winners are in the field - Andrew Dodt of Australia, Shiv Chowrasia of India and defending champion Jbe Kruger of South Africa. They won when the tournament was played at DLF in Delhi, but still like their chances at the 7,347-yard Greg Norman-designed course in Greater Noida.

"It's one of my favorite events on the tour, so I'm really looking forward to it," Dodt said.

Also entered are Asian Tour Order of Merit winners Liang Wen-Chong of China and the Indian pair of Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa.

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