Thaworn is Asia’s sixth million-dollar man

KUALA LUMPUR: Thaworn Wiratchant has proven that owning one of the most unorthodox golf swings on the Asian Tour can reap in the rewards and success. 

With a unique style that could make a golf purist cringe, the Thai scored a magnificent five-stroke victory in the Enjoy Jakarta Standard Chartered Indonesia Open on Sunday which saw him become the sixth million-dollar man on the Asian Tour.  

His cheque of US$166,660 shot him to second place on the Order of Merit with US$234,531, approximately US$3,000 behind compatriot Thongchai Jaidee. It also pushed him to third place on the career money list with US$1.06mil. 

Thaworn's success, where he joined Thongchai as the only Thai winners on the European Tour, came in the same week when the Asian Tour was ratified as a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours. 

The timing of his win was perfect to reinforce the rapid rise in playing standards in Asia. 

He accumulated a four-day total of 25-under-par 255, which was the lowest aggregate (not in relation to par) on the Asian Tour and European Tour. 

While the winning mark will not be considered official due to the preferred lie ruling which was in operation at the weekend, it did not take the gloss away from Thaworn's triumph. 

“My dream has become a reality. I have worked hard to win one of these co-sanctioned events and I'm glad to have achieved this,” said Thaworn. 

Growing up next to the Army golf course in Bangkok and a two-minute walk from Thai legend Boonchu Ruangkit's home, Thaworn got hooked to the game after he started to caddie to earn a few extra Baht. 

He developed a self-taught swing where his hands move directly above his head at the top of the backswing and has a long extended, much photographed, follow through. 

An amateur career which produced wins in Singapore and Thailand, as well as regional team competitions, ensued before he joined the pro ranks in 1987. 

Like most Thais, Thaworn is a master of the short game, thanks to hours of practice. 

In Jakarta's Cengkareng Golf Club, he pulled off seemingly miraculous shots to set up birdies or save pars as he put the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley, Arjun Atwal and Thongchai in the shade with his memorable triumph. 

Thaworn has often said that he did not see a need to remodel his swing, and after his fifth Asian Tour title and maiden European Tour triumph, there is definitely not a need for a rehaul. 

“It has worked well for me during my amateur days and it works well now. I don't think I need to change.”  

Victory in Jakarta came with a two-year exemption in Europe until the end of 2007 and Thaworn said he will pick the events that he thinks will suit his game. 

“I will have to prepare myself for Europe and play on courses that I think I'll be comfortable on,” said the 38 year-old.  

His immediate priority now is to help Asia regain the VISA Dynasty Cup when they face a Japan side led by Shigeki Maruyama at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China, from April 15-17. 

Thaworn featured in the victorious team two years ago in the Ryder Cup-style showdown but his celebration was somewhat muted as he lost all his three matches. 

“The last time we played, I did not contribute a single point. 

“This time around, I'm feeling good about my game. I would say (Japan) will start as favourites but our advantage would be the fact that our players have played seven or eight events already this season while the Japan Tour has had just played one event,” said Thaworn, who lists Mission Hills as his favourite golf course in Asia. – AFP 

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