Johor Bahru: Thai great Thaworn Wiratchant and Marcus Fraser of Australia will face-off at the season-ending Iskandar Johor Open this week as the tussle for the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit title reaches its climax.
Thaworn is the man to beat as he sits atop the Merit list with earnings of US$677,606, which is slightly over US$25,000 ahead of Fraser. The duo will have everything to play for as the Iskandar Johor Open offers a lucrative prize pot of US$2 million and a winner’s cheque of US$317,000.
Jbe Kruger of South Africa and Indian sensation Gaganjeet Bhullar, third and fourth on the Order of Merit with US$462,588 and 430,845 respectively, are also in the elite field. Japan’s Masanori Kobayashi (fifth) and Prom Meesawat of Thailand (sixth) are the only other players who have a mathematical chance of winning the Order of Merit title if they win in Johor and other results go their way.
It promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the 2012 Asian Tour season with the fact that the top-six players can still win Asia’s most coveted award.
Reigining Open Championship winner Ernie Els, European Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia of Spain and three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee will headline the Iskandar Johor Open which starts on Thursday at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.
Packed with confidence and a trusted unorthodox swing which has won him a record of 15 Asian Tour titles including three this season, Thaworn is on a mission to become the oldest Order of Merit winner as the 2012 season will conclude 12 days shy of his 46th birthday.
He was disappointed to finish tied 36th at the just concluded US$1 million Thailand Golf Championship following a disappointing closing round 77.
“It is still an open race. It is going to be interesting. I struggled with my driver in the final round (in Thailand) so I hope it will work for me in Johor,” said Thaworn.
“Winning the Order of Merit again is definitely going to be a big achievement as it shows that age is not barrier to success,” added the Thai veteran.
Fraser is on a dual mission at the Iskandar Johor Open as he seeks to translate four top-five finishes into a victory. The Australian is also setting his sights on breaking into the top-50 in the world, which will earn him a spot in the 2013 Masters Tournament. He is currently ranked 59th.
Kruger, winner of the Avantha Masters in India earlier this season, is determined to put up a fight for the Merit crown. He said: “It’s a big week. To win (the Order of Merit), you have to win in Johor.”
On the flipside of the coin, Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol now sits on the bubble in 60th place after missing the halfway cut in the Thailand Golf Championship. The top-60 will earn full playing rights for 2013.
Adam Groom of Australia (61st), Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang (62nd) and Peter Karmis of South Africa (63rd) will have to fight hard to break into the top-60 while Australia’s Adam Blyth (59th) will be amongst those in the safe zone desperate to stay up.