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The name may be a tongue-twister for many but Thailand's Thitiphun Chuayprakong looks set to become the latest young star to emerge from the Asian Tour. The 20-year-old impressed many during a gallant run at the star-studded Thailand Golf Championship where he finished tied second with reigning Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson.
South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who won the tournament by a massive 11-shots, played the weekend rounds with Thithiphun and liked what he saw from the local lad.
"I can't pronounced his name ... the guy I played with. Thi-ti-phun? He was very good. He hits it very short and playing on this golf course the way he did, it was pretty phenomenal. He has such a good short game and a good putting stroke. I was very impressed with what I saw and he managed to grind out a score," said Schwartzel.
A joint runner-up cheque of US$84,750 has pushed Thitiphun into 21st position on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit. His previous best finish on Tour was joint third place at last year's Indonesian Masters, where he enjoyed the privilege of playing with eventual champion Lee Westwood, and the Venetian Macau Open in October.
Thitiphun showed little nerves playing in the last group as he thrilled the local galleries with some glorious golf. He holed out from the bunker on 11 in the final round for eagle and missed a birdie chance on the last for sole second place.
"I'm so proud with how I played because I played with one of the best players in the world. The way he (Schwartzel) handles himself was fantastic. This is a great feeling for me," said a beaming Thitiphun. "Charl handles himself very well and he is very patient on the golf course. This is something which I'm working on with my psychologist as well. We are getting there.
"I'm happy with my round but slightly disappointed I didn't finish second alone. I'm going to play with more confidence now and this will be an inspiration for me because I want to win on the Asian Tour," said the youngster, who is nicknamed "Totem" by his friends because he likes to take things slow and easy.
Watson, who signed off with a superb 65 in his debut at Thailand's most prestigious championship, was also impressed with the talent on tap on the Asian Tour.
"The talent is so good across the world. It is a global game. As players, we do not look over and see where the player is from. We just see a good player and try to beat them. It is not really just one. Any given week any player can do what Schwartzel did today. Obviously 'Bank' (Arnond Vongvanij) was hurt but he is a good talent and he will be a star coming up," said Watson.
The Asian Tour's 2012 season will conclude at the US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open this week where the prestigious Order of Merit will be determined. Six players - Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, Australian Marcus Fraser, Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, Japan's Masanori Kobayashi and Thailand's Prom Meesawat â€“ are in the running to end the season as the Asian Tour number one.
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