Golf - Golf-Malaysia climax for Thaworn's age-defying Order of Merit bid

Dec 10 (Reuters) - Australian Marcus Fraser will take part in the season-ending Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia this week hoping to leapfrog Thai stalwart Thaworn Wiratchant and claim his first Order of Merit title on the Asian Tour.

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Second-placed Fraser trails Thaworn by $25,261.90 ahead of the $2 million event which starts on Thursday, with the Australian taking part after initially suggesting he may skip the event to play a OneAsia tournament at home.

Fraser has pocketed $652,344 from his limited 10 Asian Tour appearances this year and took part in OneAsia's Australian Open last week allowing Thawaron to stretch his lead at the Thailand Golf Championships.

Thaworn, who turns 46 later this month, could have all but assured he would become the oldest golfer to win the Asian Tour's Order of Merit title but a poor display with the driver on Sunday led to a 77 and a disappointing tied 36th finish.

"It is still an open race. It is going to be interesting," said the Thai, who has won three of his 26 Asian Tour events this year.

"I struggled with my driver in the final round (in Thailand) so I hope it will work for me in Johor.

"Winning the Order of Merit again is definitely going to be a big achievement as it shows that age is not barrier to success."

Thaworn has won the Queens Cup in Thailand, the Selangor Masters in Malaysia and the Indian Open this year but despite his success, five players stand a chance of preventing him adding a second Order of Merit title after his 2005 triumph.

Fraser is without a win on tour this year but does have four top-four finishes in lucrative events co-sanctioned with the European Tour.

South African Jbe Kruger ($462,588) and Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar (430,845) are also capable of winning the Order of Merit title with a victory at the Horizon Hills course this week.

"It's a big week. To win (the Order of Merit), you have to win in Johor," said Kruger, who won the Avantha Masters in India in February and has only played nine times on Tour this year.

Japan's Masanori Kobayashi ($410,639) and Thai Prom Meesawat ($373,510) also have a mathematical chance if they win in Johor and other results go their way.

Also taking part in Malaysia this week are British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa and Spain's victorious Ryder Cup member Sergio Garcia. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Patrick Johnston)

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