To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand
How he qualified: Special invitation
Augusta National Golf Club’s two special invitees to this year’s Masters both hail from Asia. The similarities end there. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, 21, will make his fifth consecutive Masters appearance. Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand is more than twice Ishikawa’s age but will make his debut at 46 years old.
Wiratchant won last year’s Asian Tour money list, becoming the oldest player ever to do so. His three victories last season gave him the record for most career Asian Tour wins (15). He’s No. 82 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Wiratchant is known as a short-game specialist. When he was contending at this year’s World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship, former Asian Tour player Edward Loar tweeted that Wiratchant had the “sickest wedge game you’ve never seen.” That can be an attribute on Augusta National’s slick putting surfaces. His full swing is one of the most unique in professional golf, though. Wiratchant has a severe reverse pivot. He keeps all his weight on his left side and turns his shoulders steeply so that his hands are directly over his head at the top of his swing. His weight then falls back to his right side on the downswing.
“It worked well for me during my amateur days and it works now,” he said.
Wiratchant has played just four PGA Tour events. He finished 31st at the 2006 Open Championship, and tied for 54th at that year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship. He finished 53rd in the 65-man field at Doral this year, shooting 69-69 in the first two rounds before closing with 77-77 on the weekend. Wiratchant also has played the WGC-HSBC Champions twice, finishing 60th in 2010 and 39th in 2012.
He picked up the game when his parents worked at the Army Golf Club in Bangkok. His attire often has a hint of black, as he says it is his lucky color. The man in black is headed to the home of the green jacket.