Kuala Lumpur: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Asia’s grip it-and-rip it version of John Daly, is setting his next goal after finally hitting the bulls-eye with a first Asian Tour victory last week – he wants to win a co-sanctioned event.
Next on the radar for the big-hitting Thai is the US$2.5 million Maybank Malaysian Open in two weeks time where he also hopes to settle an old score at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club after coming close to a big win last season.
The 21-year-old ended his frustration with a one-shot triumph at the SAIL Open in India to erase bitter memories of final-day losses on at least six occasions since he burst onto the Asian Tour scene in 2009.
Victory at the tree-lined Delhi Golf Club was the unlikeliest of venues as it doesn’t favour big hitters like Kiradech but the former world junior amateur champion showed his pedigree by manoeuvring his way around the challenging course for his career breakthrough.
“The Asian Tour has done a lot for me and I’m going to play as much as I can on the Tour. I’ll try to win one co-sanction tournament this year. Hopefully this win will give me more confidence to bring my game to the next level,” said Kiradech.
In Malaysia last year, the Thai was the co-leader after three rounds but settled for tied third position as Korean teenager Noh Seung-yul hogged the limelight. He was also the co-leader at the Asian Tour International on home soil last year but failed to get the job done.
Henceforth, such was the emotions of winning in India that the burly golfer slumped to his knees after sinking the victorious birdie putt from three feet to edge Bangladeshi Siddikur by one stroke.
“My hands were shaking over the putt. I have no words to describe how I feel. I’ve waited two years for my first win. This is great for me and my family. I’m very proud and happy,” he said.
He revealed that changes to his putting grip at the start of the year have provided the missing link to his game.
“I made some changes to my putting and that has worked for me. It was because of the changes with my grip and aim that I was able to win in India,” he said.
Joining the winner’s enclosure ensured that Kiradech now truly belonged amongst the new generation of rising stars from Thailand who include Pariya Junhasavasdikul, Chinnarat Phadungsil, a three-time winner, and the back-in-form Prom Meesawat.
With his maiden victory, Kiradech also moved up to third place on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit with earnings of US$72,833. He trails current leader S.S.P. Chowrasia of India who leads the rankings with US$405,180 and Sujjan Singh on US$94,082.
Chinnarat is fourth with US$72,833 while Siddikur, who finished second at the SAIL Open, lies in fifth position with US$52,762.
The Asian Tour will return to India for a third time this season for the inaugural Panasonic Open (India) next week. The US$300,000 tournament will take place at the Delhi Golf Club from April 6 to 9 (Wednesday to Saturday) with current number one Chowrasia headlining the field.
ORDER OF MERIT – TOP-20
1. S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND) $405,180
2. Sujjan SINGH (IND) $94,082
3. Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) $72,833
4. Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) $72,269
5. SIDDIKUR (BAN) $52,762
6. Shiv KAPUR (IND) $51,538
6. Angelo QUE (PHI) $51,538
8. Chapchai NIRAT (THA) $39,723
8. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) $39,723
8. Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) $39,723
8. Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) $39,723
12. Mark FOSTER (ENG) $30,996
12. Jbe KRUGER (RSA) $30,996
12. Darren BECK (AUS) $30,996
15. Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) $28,942
16. Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) $25,283
16. Anthony KANG (USA) $25,283
18. Mars PUCAY (PHI) $24,866
19. Scott HEND (AUS) $22,192
20. Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND) $18,300
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com