Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia, December 11: Australia’s Marcus Fraser is ready to put up a strong challenge and become the first Australian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title when the US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open tees off on Thursday.
Fraser, who is second on the rankings, trails Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant by slightly over US$25,000, and is expecting the merit race to go down the wire at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.
“It’s a fairly close fight between Thaworn and myself but there’re still probably four or five guys out there who still have a chance of winning the Order of Merit. It’s going to be a pretty exciting week for sure,” said Fraser.
After enjoying four top-five finishes on the Asian Tour this season, Fraser is setting his sights on wrapping up a sensational season with a win at the Iskandar Johor Open.
“It’ll be a huge achievement if I become the first Australian to win the Order of Merit title. I love playing in Asia and I’ve got lots of good friends that play on the Asian Tour. It’s good fun coming up to these events and to be able to have the chance of possibly win the Order of Merit this week is something that I look forward to,” said the 34-year-old Australian.
South Africa’s Jbe Kruger could have narrowed the gap at the top with a good finish at the Thailand Golf Championship last week but was left disappointed after he closed with a 75 to finish tied-28th.
“It was unfortunate that I didn’t get the result that I wanted last week,” said Kruger of his performance at the Thailand Golf Championship which earned the highest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points anywhere around the world, surpassing the Australian Open and Nelson Mandela Championship last week.
Kruger, who is currently lying in third place on the Order of Merit, however believes he still has a chance to pip Thaworn and Fraser to the prestigious crown.
“I’ll have to win this week in order to win the Order of Merit. But it’s definitely not out of my hands as I still have a chance. There will be pressure, no doubt and I just have to learn to manage it to the best of my abilities,” said Kruger.
“I’ve been knocking on the doors for a couple of seasons and it was nice to finally win in India (Avantha Masters). As I said after my win then, I want to win again and that’s the goal that I’ve been working towards,” added Kruger.
With the presence of Major champions like Ernie Els, Michael Campbell and John Daly teeing up at the Asian Tour’s season-ending event, Kruger is confident that he can stand tall against anyone of the them.
“I’ve proven that I can match up against the best players. I’ve very good self-belief and I can beat anybody on my day,” said Kruger.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar is also determined to win the Order of Merit title as he knows a win will unlock the doors for the next generation of golfers to emerge from India.
“If I go on to win the Order of Merit, how many more Indians you think will go on to take up golf. It was what Jeev used to do 10 years ago when I was a little kid and I used to follow him. Now the next generation of golfers from India will be getting ready,” said Bhullar.
India holds the distinction of having produced the most number of Merit champions with Jyoti Randhawa became the country’s first Asian number one in 2002 followed by Arjun Atwal in 2003 before Jeev Milkha Singh secured a double with wins in 2006 and 2008.
It is a proud record that Bhullar hopes to add his name to.
“My confidence level has definitely gone up and I think once I get off to a good start, it’ll be hard for anyone to catch up with me,” said Bhullar.
The Iskandar Johor Open is presented by Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd, which is a government-linked company specifically incorporated to take on the role of master developer of prime waterfront properties in Johor Bahru.