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November 3, 2009

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Liang, Thongchai to battle for Asian crown

THE race for the Asian Tour's Order of Merit crown has now come down to a race between Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and China's Liang Wenchong.

Liang emerged as the only remaining contender after finishing second at the Singapore Open on Sunday, where his earnings of US$555,550 bumped up his season's haul to US$740,544 while Thongchai took his tally to US$937,658 after finishing tied 14th which was worth US$67,785.

With three counting events remaining on the Asian Tour, third-ranked Anthony Kang of the United States fell out of contention as he trails Thongchai by approximately US$537,394 while Liang is US$197,114 behind the leader who is chasing an unprecedented third Merit crown.

"I don't know who will win the Order of Merit. I'm just focusing on myself. If I play bad and someone else wins the tournament I'm okay. I'll keep trying my best," said Thongchai, who won the Order of Merit title in 2001 and 2004.

The Thai star credited Liang for his fine finish where he chased winner Ian Poulter of England until the very end at Sentosa Golf Club.

"Liang has become a strong player. This was a tough week. We had early starts every day and played many holes as well (due to the weather delays). You cannot anticipate the weather here. It was very tiring. You play so many holes and then you cannot get into any momentum," said Thongchai.

Hong Kong Open

Liang, China's first Asian Tour No. 1 when he won the Merit crown in 2007, is optimistic about his chances of edging Thongchai to the coveted title. However, he will need to finish no lower than second at the US$2.5 million Hong Kong Open next week to keep his hopes alive.

"The Order of Merit race will now move to the Hong Kong Open which is our last big event (followed by the Cambodian Open and King's Cup in Thailand). I'll try to push Thongchai all the way to try and win the Order of Merit title again. I'll look at my schedule to ensure I give myself a chance," said Liang, who has two runner-up finishes this season.

"Overall, I'm satisfied and pleased with how I played all week and being in contention. It was good that I maintained my form the entire week. I will try to maintain my form for the rest of the year," added Liang.

Scott Hend of Australia was the biggest mover when he leaped 44 places up to fourth on the Order of Merit. His tied-third finish in Singapore earned him US$281,500 giving him a total of US$354,391 this season.

India's Jyoti Randhawa dropped one spot to fifth with earnings of US$318,350 while compatriot Gaganjeet Bhullar is sixth on US$308,916.


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