Thaworn on a mission

Thaworn Wiratchant © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour
Thaworn Wiratchant © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Johor Bahru: Thai maetsro Thaworn Wiratchant is looking forward to bring the curtain down on his memorable year with a win at the US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open, which will also seal his place as Asia’s best player for the second time since 2005. 

The 15-time Asian Tour winner knows it will not be a stroll in the park as he chases his fourth Tour victory this year at the Asian Tour season-ending event which will tee off at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

A strong international field that includes world number 20 Sergio Garcia of Spain, reigning British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa as well as a host of Asian Tour stars can still put a dent on Thaworn’s title and merit aspirations.

“It’s a crucial week but the most important thing is to stay focus and handle the pressure well. I believe I can do it,” said Thaworn, who holds the world record of lowest number of putts recorded in a tournament after making 91 putts over four rounds at the King’s Cup held on home soil a fortnight ago.

Australia’s Marcus Fraser, South Africa’s Jbe Kruger, India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, Japan’s Masanori Kobayashi and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat are still in the running for the prestigious Merit crown and are expected to bring the race down the wire this week.

“As I look back on the year, I’m happy that I’ve won three times. All three wins were very memorable and I can’t say which win was the best. But if you ask me what the highlight of the year is, I hope it would be winning the Order of Merit as that would really mean a fantastic year for me,” said Thaworn.

Thaworn can also break into the top-50 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) for the first time in his career with a victory this week and earn a place at the US Masters in April next year.

“It’ll be nice to play in the Masters as I’ve never played in that Major before. But before I start thinking about that, I’ve to get past this week’s strong field first,” said the 45-year-old.

After enjoying another career high with his win at the British Open in July, Els is hoping to end his year with another win that will add to his illustrious record where he has more than 60 victories worldwide including two US Opens, two Open Championships, and a record seven World Match Play titles.

“It was a dream come true for me again when I won another Major. I think this event’s probably everyone’s last one for the year and everyone wants to do well before we go on a long break,” said Els.

With the spotlight on the Asian Tour Order of Merit race this week, Els who won the European Tour Order of Merit twice in 2003 and 2004, believes the one who passes the mental test will emerge as the winner.

“It’s another golf tournament, but sometimes you can’t help but think of the benefits that will come with it. The motivation will be there as that’ll certainly drive you to do well. The most important thing is to be positive play your own game,” said Els.

As the highest ranked player this week, Garcia is determined to make his debut at the Iskandar Johor Open a lasting one. “This is my first time playing in Malaysia and I’m happy with what I’ve seen of the place and the golf course so far,” said the Spaniard.

“It’s also my last event of the year and I’m looking forward to a good showing. It’ll be nice to put myself into contention and hopefully win. Then I’ll have a nice Christmas break and get ready for next year,’ said Garcia, who played a starring role in the Ryder Cup for Europe in September.