Nusajaya, Malaysia, December 16: Thaworn Wiratchant sealed his place in the Asian Tour’s history books by winning the Order of Merit title for a second time in his chequered career following a closing seven-under-par 65 at the season-ending US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open.
The Thai veteran star saved his best for last with eight birdies against a lone bogey at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club which saw him finish five-shots ahead of closest Merit challenger Marcus Fraser of Australia, who closed with a 72.
Thaworn became Asia’s oldest number one at the age of 45 years and 351 days after a glorious year which saw him win three times and take his career tally to an all-time high 15 titles in 2012.
He endured a bumpy ride in the Merit race as he struggled with fatigue all week and had to keep a close watch on Marcus, who started the final round two shots ahead of Thaworn and needed to earn slightly over US$25,000 this week to become the first Aussie to win the Order of Merit.
Thaworn, who won the Order of Merit with earnings of US$738,046, ended the rain-shortened week in tied fifth position.
“I didn’t feel any pressure because there was only one competitor – Marcus Fraser. I put in a lot of effort and focus to win this year so I’m very happy that I finished as number one,” said Thaworn.
“I never thought I could win the Order of Merit at this age. I just enjoy playing week by week and meeting my friends on Tour. I’m quite happy with that.”
Thaworn was triumphant at the Queen’s Cup on home soil, Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters in Malaysia and Hero Indian Open this season. He also set what is believed to be a new world record for lowest number of putts in a tournament, making 91 putts at the King’s Cup in Thailand two weeks ago.
His Merit success will see Thaworn earning a five-year exemption on the Asian Tour and also gain exemptions into the British Open and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship next season.
“The record which I’ve set is for someone to break. It can’t be there forever. This is my work and my career. That’s why I play in every tournament that I can. I love golf. Every day I spend time training and I only spend time with my family on Sunday. I love golf a lot. When I stay at home, I practice more than when I play in an 18-hole tournament,” he said.
“This year I only won three titles but in 2005 (when he won the Merit title) I won four events! The competitors are different nowThere are new players coming in and I’m getting older. That’s not an excuse but I definitely tried harder this time compared to last time. This is the result of hard work.”
Fraser failed the find the finish that he needed to overhaul Thaworn as he settled for his second runner-up finish on the Merit list since 2010.
“I felt there was still a chance of winning the tournament until the guys sort of went nuts on the scores. I was really concentrating on winning the tournament. I’m a little bit disappointed but to finish second on the Order of Merit is a good effort and I’m pretty proud about it,” said Fraser.
In the race to the top-61 on the Order of Merit, Unho Park of Australia made a charge inside the safety zone in 59th position. Boonchu Ruangkit (61st) of Thailand is also the oldest player to earn an Asian Tour card for 2013 alongside Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka.
It was heartbreak for Singaporean Lam Chih Bing, who needed a top-15 finish at the Iskandar Johor but signed off in 48th position to miss out on full playing rights on the Asian Tour next season.