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Thaworn eyes top spot at Maekyung Open

Thailand 's Thaworn Wiratchant can overhaul compatriot Thongchai Jaidee at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit when he competes in this week's US$500,000 Maekyung Open.

Second-ranked Thaworn is only US$3,865 behind the money leader and a strong finish at Nam Seoul Country Club will dislodge Thongchai, who is presently playing in Europe , from his perch.

A week's break has also recharged Thaworn's batteries and returning to Korea will be a huge confidence booster as he has often performed well in the Land of Morning Calm, with a fourth place finish at the recent SK Telecom Open being his latest achievement.

"To win the Order of Merit is a big goal of mine. At the moment Thongchai has the lead, but maybe if I keep playing well, I can catch him. If I can continue my good play I think I can have a shot at winning the Merit title," said Thaworn, who has earned US$264,955 this season, thanks to his victory in the Enjoy Jakarta Standard Chartered Indonesia Open in March.

After a run of five events in succession which started with him being a part of Asia 's victorious team that won the Visa Dynasty Cup over Japan last month, Thaworn took a week's break at home to rest and work on his game.

Five other members of the Asian team, Singapore 's Mardan Mamat, Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit , India 's Amandeep Johl, Filipino Angelo Que and Korea 's Mo Joong-kyung will also be challenging for honours at the Maekyung event, which is the 14th leg of this season's Asian Tour.

Singapore 's Mamat, who recently qualified for the British Open at St Andrews in July, will be looking to rediscover some of his winning form after missing two cuts from his last three events.

India 's Johl will be another player determined to shine as he had weekends off in three events after the Dynasty Cup success. Johl was runner-up in the Maekyung Open two years ago, finishing behind Korea 's Chung Joon who is also competing this week.

At 49, Boonchu is showing no signs of slowing down. At last week's Philippine Open, he challenged for the title before settling for sixth place after a disappointing final round of 76.

Australian Terry Pilkadaris, currently seventh on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, can be expected to rise to the top at Nam Seoul while American Edward Loar, the reigning Korean Open champion, is widely tipped to contend after two recent top-10s in the Macau Open and the SK Telecom Open.

The home challenge will come from two-time Asian number one Kang Wook-soon, winner of the Maekyung Open in 2000 while Korean-born New Zealander Eddie Lee will also relish a return to Nam Seoul as he won the event in 2002 while he was still an amateur.

The 21-year-old Lee recently ended a disappointing run of seven straight missed cuts with a superb fourth-place finish at the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai last month and had the pleasure of playing with eventual winner Ernie Els in the third round.

Scotsman Simon Yates, a perennial contender in Korea with one win and two runner-up finishes, makes a return from injury after a two week break. New Zealand 's Richard Lee and Australian Scott Barr, both presently ranked in the top-10 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, are also in this week's field.


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