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Thaworn tops Asian Order of Merit

The last time Thaworn Wiratchant topped the Order of Merit, it was for a brief spell and he ended the season out of the top-10. That was in 1996, this is the new Thaworn of 2005.

The in-form Thai star is enjoying a rich vein of form this season and after claiming the top spot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit on Sunday, he is determined to finish the job come December.

Thaworn dislodged compatriot Thongchai Jaidee from the perch with a second place finish at the Maekyung Open in Korea and now leads the merit list with US$326,229, already a career high.

In 13 starts this season, Thaworn has been impressive. He won the Enjoy Jakarta Standard Chartered Indonesia Open, co-sanctioned with the European Tour, in 25-under-par 255 and registered two top-fives and five other top-20s.

Singapore 's Mardan Mamat, who has played regularly with Thaworn, said: "I'm not surprised that he's leading. He is the sort of guy who doesn't give up on the golf course and will fight till the finish line.

"The way he is chipping and putting, he can play on any course. The other thing that I've noticed is that Thaworn is driving the ball so much longer and straighter this year. Put it all together, he's got a lot of confidence. I won't be surprised if he goes on to win the Order of Merit," said Mamat, who is presently ranked 39th.

Thaworn's season statistics make impressive reading. The 38-year-old is 61-under-par to date, which is the lowest on Tour, and has shot the most number of birdies, 188 to be the best amongst his peers.

While his swing looks unique and unorthodox with a willowy and extended follow-through, Thaworn is truly a master of the short game. He is ranked a lowly 78th for Greens in Regulation, but has made par saves regularly as Mamat acknowledged.

Thaworn, who has played the third most number of professional tournaments in Asia , 179, since 1995, said he would play as many as possible in the remaining 14 tournaments on the Asian Tour in his goal to become the Order of Merit winner for the first time in his career. He will also select a handful of events on the European Tour during the summer break in Asia .

"When you are playing well, you don't feel tired," said Thaworn, a winner of five career titles in Asia .

"I'm happy to become the new Order of Merit leader and I will try to play as many more to maintain this position. It is my goal to become number one and if I keep playing well like I have been, I can maybe achieve it," said Thaworn.

Thaworn has opened up a lead of US$59,409 from Thongchai, who is focusing on his campaign in Europe , while he is a massive US$142,109 ahead of third-ranked Jyoti Randhawa of India .

The last time Thaworn led the money list was in 1996 when he won the season-opening Sabah Masters in Malaysia and finished third in the ensuing event. He faded towards the tail-end of the year and went into near oblivion by registering only two top-10s in the next four seasons.

The introduction of modern technology saw Thaworn make a welcome re-emergence and he won back-to-back events in 2001. Wielding a new driver which gave him 20 extra yards in distance, he claimed the Singapore Open and Volvo Masters of Malaysia to finish fourth on the money list that year.

He was ranked fourth again in 2003 and 2004, winning the Mercuries Taiwan Masters along the way last season.

However, it is the lofty number one position that Thaworn is desperately seeking as he emerges as a worthy challenger for Thongchai's crown.

ASIAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT - TOP 20

Pos Player Order of Merit

1. Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 326,229

2. Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 268,820

3. Jyoti RANDHAWA ( IND ) 184,120

4. Scott BARR (AUS) 136,021

5. James KINGSTON (RSA) 121,781

6. Jeev Milkha SINGH ( IND ) 116,478

7. Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 108,561

8. Marcus BOTH (AUS) 95,835

9. WANG Ter-chang (TPE) 92,005

10. Simon YATES (SCO) 91,104

11. Richard LEE (NZL) 87,797

12. Adam FRASER (AUS) 82,745

13. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 77,465

14. Scott STRANGE (AUS) 76,460

15. Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 74,933

16. LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 74,486

17. Simon DYSON (ENG) 73,954

18. Edward LOAR ( USA ) 73,881

19. KANG Wook-soon (KOR) 72,453

20. Eddie LEE (NZL) 71,380

 

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