'Iron Man' plans to celebrate 200th Asian Tour outing in style
Chuah Choo Chiang
Asian number one Thaworn Wiratchant hopes he can cap a career milestone this week with a grand victory.
The Thai star will feature in his 200th Asian Tour tournament, giving him the honour of holding the most number of appearances in the region.
Thaworn, last year's Order of Merit winner and an eight-time winner, has come close to winning the China Open in the past, most recently a third-place finish in the 2004 edition in Shanghai.
Two years on, he hopes to be two rungs better. 'My goal is to play well for four days and if I can achieve this, then I can think about climbing to the top of the leaderboard,' said the 39-year-old Thaworn.
'I'm happy with my form and I have tried very hard to stay on top of my game. Last year was a great year as I won four times, but after being a winner on so many occasions it doesn't mean you can repeat that easily.'
Since making his debut in the region in 1995, the Thai strongman has won all across Asia but nothing would give him greater pleasure than lifting the China Open.
'Time has passed by so quickly and I never realised how many tournaments I've played,' he said.
'Previously, the schedule wasn't as full as what we enjoy these days and there are more opportunities for players to play on the Asian Tour. I'm proud to feature in so many events, but what gives me greater satisfaction is when I play well.'
Thaworn's staying power, which saw him play 15 consecutive weeks last season en route to his career-best year, has earned him the nickname 'Iron Man'.
The Thai, who picked up the game when he was a ball boy at a driving range in Bangkok, has yet to replicate last season's success, but he feels he can rise to the occasion this week.
'You need to be hungry in this game to ensure that you will never stop playing,' he said. 'If you're no longer hungry, your energy will be gone. It's a pleasure being number one.'
Thaworn will spearhead the Asian Tour's charge, which also includes Mardan Mamat, Singapore's first-ever winner on the European Tour, and UBS Order of Merit leader Andrew Buckle of Australia.
Two-time Asian number one Thongchai Jaidee was a late withdrawal after competing in the US Masters where he missed the cut.
Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol, who finished third in Shenzhen last year, and Charlie Wi, who is second on the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit, will also challenge for honours.