Kuala Lumpur: Asia welcomed two potential young stars in Korea’s Park Hyun-bin and Thai teenager Thitiphun Chuayprakong after their impressive showing at the just concluded Indonesian Masters.
Park, 24, and the 18-year-old Thitiphun contended all week in the inaugural US$750,000 Asian Tour tournament at Royale Jakarta Golf Club before finishing equal third behind winner Lee Westwood of England, who regained his world number one ranking on his 38th birthday, and Thai legend Thongchai Jaidee.
Their fine performances, which earned praises from Westwood, once again showed that the road to success on the Asian Tour begins from Qualifying School.
They had earned their Tour card through the demanding Q-School in Hua Hin, Thailand in January and Sunday’s cheque of US$34,725 would go a long way in helping them to secure full playing rights for 2012 with top-60 finishes on the Order of Merit.
“They are obviously two young players and they’ve got a big future in the game. You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself and do your own thing,” said Westwood of Park and Thitiphun.
Despite trailing by five shots going into the last round, Park showed his mettle by pushing Westwood all the way on the front nine and tied the Englishman at the turn with an outward 31. However, Westwood’s experience saw him push through as Park faded coming home with three late bogeys preventing him from finishing second.
The slender Park turned professional five years ago and decided to play on the Asian Tour to elevate his career, much in the same manner as reigning Asian Tour number one Noh Seung-yul. Park finished tied 33rd at Qualifying School.
“I like the way the Asian Tour is run and I’m enjoying myself. I’m also used to the weather because I always practice in Thailand during the winter season,” said Park, who moved up to 24th place on the latest Order of Merit.
“It is still a good result for me and I hope to continue playing my best. Lee is a very long hitter and after playing with him, I feel more confident. Maybe I’ll even win on the Asian Tour soon,” he added.
Thitiphun showed Thailand’s depth in the game by emerging as a surprise contender. Despite his young age, he showed great poise to earn a good cheque and moved into 20th place on the rankings.
Nicknamed ‘Tote’ by his friends which means slow as Thitiphun does things in his own pace, the young Thai could well be set for a speedy rise in his career if he continues to produce the kind of attacking golf that earned Westwood’s admiration.
Playing alongside the world number one was a priceless experience which he hopes will make him a winner on the Asian Tour soon. “You won’t get many opportunities to play with one of the world’s best golfers,” said Thitiphun.
India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia continues to lead the Order of Merit with his haul of US$410,077, thanks largely to his victory in the Avantha Masters on home soil. Bangladeshi Siddikur maintained his second place with US$152,332 after adding US$34,725 to his season’s collection for his joint third finish in Indonesia.
Thongchai, the only man to win three Order of Merit crowns, jumped to third position with US$134,284, thanks to his runner-up cheque of US$81,375.
The Asian Tour moves to Seoul for the €2.2 million (approximately US$2.8 million) Ballantine’s Championship at Blackstone Resort this week.
The event is jointly sanctioned with the European Tour and Korean PGA and will see Asian Tour member Marcus Fraser of Australia defending his title against a world-class field which will include Westwood, Thongchai, Ian Poulter of England, South African Ernie Els, American Dustin Johnson and Korea’s Noh and Y.E. Yang, Asia’s first Major champion.
Asian Tour Order of Merit top-20
Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)
1. S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND) 410,077
2. SIDDIKUR (BAN) 152,332
3. Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 134,824
4. Sujjan SINGH (IND) 102,426
5. Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 96,182
6. Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 93,158
7. Shiv KAPUR (IND) 89,163
8. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 74,798
9. Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 66,720
10. Angelo QUE (PHI) 60,801
11. Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 57,717
12. Darren BECK (AUS) 52,016
13. Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 51,723
13. Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 51,723
15. Marcus BOTH (AUS) 49,470
16. Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 49,401
17. BAEK Seuk-Hyun (KOR) 41,429
18. Manav JAINI (IND) 40,215
19. Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 40,177
20. Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 37,740
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com