Wiratchant becomes Asia's million-dollar man

THAWORN WIRATCHANT of Thailand, the master of an unorthodox swing, has become the sixth million-dollar man on the Asian Tour after registering a magnificent five-stroke victory in the Indonesia Open.

With the victory, Thaworn pocketed $ 166,660 putting himself in the second place on the Order of Merit with $ 234,531, approximately $ 3,000 behind compatriot Thongchai Jaidee.

It also pushed him to third place on the career money list with $ 1.06 million.

Among the Indian's, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh are in the top-five Order of Merit earnings. Earning $ 164,282, Randhawa is in the third position while Jeev is fifth with earnings amounting to $ 89,591.

The 38-year-old Wiratchant, in his much photographed and self taught swing which makes a golf purist cringe, moves his hands directly above his head at the top of the backswing and has a long extended follow through.

His success came in the same week when the Asian Tour was ratified as a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

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, 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,'' Thaworn said.

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 as caddie to earn a few extra Baht.

Thaworn's amateur career produced wins in Singapore and Thailand, as well as regional team competitions, before he joined the pro ranks in 1987.

He has often said that he did not see a need to remodel his swing. ``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 would pick the events that he thinks would suit his game. ``I will have to prepare myself for Europe and play on courses that I think I'll be comfortable on,'' he said adding that his immediate priority now is to help Asia regain the VISA Dynasty Cup at the Mission Hills in China.

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.'' said Thaworn, who lists Mission Hills as his favourite golf course in Asia.