Photo - Asian Tour
KIRADECH GUNS FOR VICTORY AT WORLDWIDE HOLDINGS SELANGOR MASTERS
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat has an old score to settle when he competes in the RM1.2 million (US$300,000) Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters which starts on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old former world junior champion is desperate to claim a first Asian Tour victory and hopes to cross the finish line first at the Seri Selangor Golf Club after being pipped by Rick Kulacz of Australia last year.
Kiradech, ranked seventh on the Order of Merit, will face a top field which includes home favourites Ben Leong and Danny Chia, last week’s Brunei Open champion Siddikur, who is the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour, American Jason Knutzon, Australia’s Scott Hend, India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara.
Over the past 12 months, Kiradech has led into the final round of three tournaments, including last year’s Selangor Masters when Kulacz shot a course-record equalling 63 to win by one.
“I want to find my first win on the Asian Tour. I have played some good golf and I think it’s time for me to win. I’ll have to keep at it to give myself chances. My form is not 100 percent but I’ll do my best,” said Kiradech today.
The burly Thai was also the joint third round leader in the Maybank Malaysian Open in March but finished third. He reckons a first win could well come in his neighbouring country but knows he must putt better when the heat is on.
“My putting has often let me down in the last round. I think I have felt the pressure on the back nine and missed some short putts. The feeling is getting better through each experience. Last year, I played a good final round but Rick played a great round. You’ve got to get lucky to win on the Asian Tour. I also played well in the Malaysian Open. It’s very difficult to win out here.”
The 24-year-old Leong, winner of the 2008 Selangor Masters, hopes the good vibes that he feels at the par-71 Seri Selangor will translate into a second Asian Tour victory. After his breakthrough, his form dipped but the Malaysian prospect has shown some good results of late, including at last week’s event where he was the joint third round leader before finishing 10th.
“I have great feelings and great memories coming back here. They’ve lengthened the course and put in some bunkers and the rough is up this week. It’ll play one or two shots tougher. Overall, I’m feeling good and ready to go,” said Leong.
“I’ve been struggling to put four good rounds together but I’ve got a feeling that it’s coming close. I was a bit unlucky here and there last week (where he shot 73 in the last round). I haven’t been in that position in a long time and I felt a bit nervous. But I’m sure better things will come,” he added.
Life has been a whirlwind for the 25-year-old Siddikur, who until last week was just one of the boys. His historic triumph in Brunei saw him make the front page of local newspapers in Dhaka and he has been besieged by congratulatory phone calls and emails from back home.
“So many things have been happening the last two days. I’ve received so many phone calls and over 100 emails from friends. Everyone is very excited and I can’t wait to get home,” said Siddikur.
“I’ve also had to make arrangements for visas to travel to Switzerland and Japan for tournaments next month. It’ll be great to play in the big events on the Asian Tour with my winner’s exemption.”
But with Seri Selangor set up to his liking, he intends to take another shot at glory instead of resting on his laurels. “I like this course. It’s one of my favourite courses out here. I’m a consistent player and it’s a tight course here which suits my style. Last week’s win will give me confidence,” he said.
Knutzon, ranked ninth on the Order of Merit, has been a picture of consistency all season where he has amassed two top-10s and has not missed a single cut. And he is now yearning for a third Asian Tour victory.
His first title was in 2004, followed by a second win in 2007. The American hopes to strike a pattern by winning for a third time after every three years. “It’ll be awesome to win in 2010, it’ll be a great feeling. It (the pattern) sounds good,” said Knutzon.
“I didn’t play here last year but the course set up is in a very good shape. It’s a difficult course and if you shoot under par, you’d have a good day. It’s a course where a true champion will come out from this. You have to do everything well,” he said.