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Tsai Chi-huang's unlikeliest of triumphs at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters over the weekend proved one thing on the Asian Tour â€“ that grizzled veterans can still hold their own against the new generation of young stars.
The 44-year-old, who is based in Shanghai, teaches the game for a living and he taught many of the current stars of the game a trick or two on how to master the winds and treacherous Taiwan Golf and Country Club's Tamsui course with an accomplished performance.
His surprise victory, which earned him US$120,000 and moved him up to 15th place on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit, came with a priceless two-year exemption which he immediately took up. Tsai now plans to play in most of the remaining events in 2012, starting with next week's Venetian Macau Open.
"I'm going to take up membership and I will play in Macau. It's great that I'll be able to play on the Asian Tour again. There are a lot of big tournaments coming up and I'm looking forward to it," said Tsai.
He got a spot in the Mercuries Taiwan Masters under the Past Champions category, following his victory in 2002. However, he never quite made his mark in Asia in the subsequent years, finishing 96th and 154th on the rankings in 2003 and 2004 through limited appearances.
Tsai was always regarded as one of Chinese Taipei's leading players as he won the 1997 Taiwan Open and 1998 ROC PGA Championship. When he won his first Mercuries title 10 years ago, he completed the unique treble in Chinese Taipei which only a handful of players have done so.
He described his second Asian Tour victory as a dream come true and is hopeful of producing some more good golf in the coming months belying his advanced years.
"I felt like I was still sleeping when I was on the first tee box (on Sunday). It was only when I finished 18 holes that I knew my dream had come true. I guess I'm quite lucky to have won this," said Tsai, whose third round effort of seven-under-par 65 on his 44th birthday had laid the groundwork for his victory.
He joined Thai ace Thaworn Wiratchant and Singaporean Mardan Mamat as winners this season who are well into their 40s. India's Digvijay Singh, 40, also won his first Asian Tour title this year.
There are several other veterans who have played brilliantly this season, including the evergreen 56-year-old Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand, who finished tied 18th in Taipei to move up to 48th place on the latest Order of Merit.
Myanmar's Zaw Moe, 45 years young, came in 49th on Sunday and is currently 33rd on the Merit list with US$63,350. Both Zaw and Boonchu would be good bets to end the season in the top-60 to earn full playing rights for 2013.
Australia's Marcus Both heads the rankings with US$472,094, followed by South Africa's Jbe Kruger on US$453,588 and Japan's Masanori Kobayashi with US$400,289.
Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, the highest ranked player in this week's CJ Invitational Hosted by KJ Choi, will have a chance to improve on his fourth position where he has earned US$342,044 this year.
Korean superstar K.J. Choi, who is an Asian Tour honorary member, will defend his title at the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club against an elite field which includes former British Open champion Ben Curtis of the United States and PGA Tour stars Charlie Wi and Bae Sang-moon of Korea, who are both multiple winners on the Asian Tour.
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