Sparkling Park Secures Tour Card

Sun 09 Dec 2012

Sparkling Park Secures Tour Card


Chonburi, Thailand December 9: Park Hyun-bin ended a nervous ride at the star-studded Thailand Golf Championship by sealing his Asian Tour card for 2013, courtesy of a sharp-shooting game which earned him a commendable tied fifth finish on Sunday.

The Thai-based Korean produced a solid two-under-par 70 for an 11-under-par 277 total at the US$1 million Asian Tour event, finishing a distant 14 shots from the winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.

But all that mattered in the end was the fact that Park secured his Asian Tour card for next year. He earned US$41,000 on Sudnay which pushed him up 33 places on the Order of Merit to 46th place, a result which he celebrated with former Asian Tour winner and current PGA Tour regular Kevin Na.

“I was very worried about my position on the Order of Merit. I really wanted to save my Asian Tour card. I was very nervous coming down the stretch because it was playing in my mind. I’m happy with how I played,” smiled the Korean, who had Na acting as translator.

Playing in his second season on the Asian Tour, Park credited his result to his accurate tee shots as he missed only four fairways the entire week for his best finish on Tour since his tied third outing at the 2011 Indonesian Masters.

“I was very comfortable with my driver this week. I think I only missed a few fairways. Now that I’ve secured my card, I can be more relaxed at the Iskandar Johor Open (season-ending event),” said Park.

The top of the Order of Merit did not change with Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand staying in the driver’s seat as he continued his hunt for a second Merit crown.

He finished tied 36th following a disappointing 77 in the final round and will need to finish ahead of his closest rivals at the season-ending Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia next week. Marcus Fraser of Australia, who did not play in Thailand, trails by slightly over US$25,000.

“It is still an open race. It is going to be interesting. I struggled with my driver today so I hope it will work for me next week,” said Thaworn.

At the opposite end of the Order of Merit, Kalle Samooja’s putter turned red-hot at the right time as he fired a sizzling 66 to give himself a huge boost of earning full playing rights next year.

The dashing Finnish came in tied 17th and earned US$12,400 to move up nine spots on the Order of Merit to 54th place. With one more event to go, he must stay inside the top-60 to earn a full Asian Tour card for 2013.

“I played good golf and made a lot of putts. I’ve been hitting it really well all week but couldn’t make any putts. Suddenly it started dropping in the last round so that was the key,” smiled Samooja.

“When I get it going, I can go low but sometimes I find it a problem to get the right attitude to play well in the opening rounds. Hopefully I can start from the first round and not only the last round in the future! That’s something I need to work on,” he added.

Samooja turned in 34 after two drops shots on eight and nine but bounced back with four birdies on the trot from the 11th hole to charge up the leaderboard to give himself an extra edge heading into the US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open.

“This is big. Next week is really big as well. This puts me closer to where I want to be and I want to be inside the top-60. This is not enough so next week will be another big week,” said Samooja.

Boonchu Ruangkit, known as the ‘Godfather’ among the Thai players, carded a 73 for tied 39th and moved to 48th position on the Order of Merit, a position he hopes to maintain after next week.

“Now I aim to finish inside the top-40 of the Order of Merit. I’ll be the oldest player there. I hurt my leg because I’ve been walking too much so hopefully I can hold on for another week,” said the 56-year-old veteran.