Image from Asian Tour
KIRADECH SOARS ON EAGLE’S WINGS AT ASIAN TOUR INTERNATIONAL
Bangkok, February 6: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot a superb eagle on the last hole to open up a two-shot lead after the third round of the season-opening Asian Tour International on Saturday.
Chasing a maiden Asian Tour victory, the burly 20-year-old produced a grandstand finish by converting a 10-foot putt following a lucky break and two mighty blows for a three-under-par 69 at the Suwan Golf and Country Club.
Korea’s Hwang Inn-choon carded the day’s best of 67 to move to second place while Singaporean Lam Chih Bing signed for a 71 to lie a further stroke back in tied third with American rookie David Johnson, who shot a 69.
Filipino Angelo Que (70), last year’s runner-up Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan (68), South African Jbe Kruger (69) and Thailand’s Piya Swangarunporn (69) will start the final round four off the pace.
Kiradech, a former world junior champion, enjoyed a stroke of fortune at the closing par-five hole as his wayward tee shot hit a light post. Under the Tour regulations, it required the player to retake the shot with no penalty and the Thai made sure his second attempt split the fairway. From 225 yards out, he then nailed a radar-guided four iron approach shot to 10 feet for his eagle.
“I’m very happy. I played great golf on the back nine. On the front nine, I was struggling with my putts but it came in on the back nine. I got a lucky rule on 18. I hit the light post and I had to rehit it and got a good line on the second shot. If not for the rule, my first drive would have ended up in the 10th fairway,” said Kiradech, who has held the joint lead at the US$300,000 event since the opening day.
He is determined to win on Sunday and erase the disappointment of finishing second at last year’s Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters where he also led by two going into the final round.
“I’ll try to be better than Malaysia. I couldn’t make any putts then but my routine is now different. My coach has been working with me on my putts. That experience will help me and I think it’ll be good tomorrow,” said Kiradech, whose card included four birdies against as many bogeys.
“It’ll be a proud moment for me if I can win at home as my parents are here. I’ll be trying hard.”
The 34-year-old Hwang, winner of the 2008 GS Caltex Maekyung Open on the Asian Tour, wielded a hot putter as he charged into contention with six birdies. He rolled in long putts on the 10th and 13th holes to give himself a chance of a second victory.
“My putting was good and I hit it all the greens in regulation on the back nine and holed a few long putts. It was good. I’m going to try and win this tournament. I like the course as it rewards good drives,” said the Korean, who spent a month in Thailand practising in January due to the cold weather in Seoul.
Lam kept up his title bid where a birdie at the last hole eased the disappointment of bogeys on 16 and 17 from missed putts. A winner on the domestic Thai event last weekend, he reckons he can still overhaul the leader.
“It was a good way to finish with a birdie and still be within striking range. It was blowing all day and it made it a lot trickier. I missed two short putts on 16 and 17 but I guess it’s good not to be in the last flight tomorrow. Maybe I can mount a charge from behind,” said Lam. “It’s easy to make mistakes. You need to go out there and stay patient and hope for the putts to drop.”
Johnson, who graduated from Qualifying School last month, stayed in the hunt with an impressive 69, erasing an opening bogey with four birdies. “I got the best out of my round and put myself in a good position. Three back, it’s doable on this course. If I just keep focus on what I’m doing, my goal is to play the golf course. Obviously there are great players and I can’t control what the others are doing,” he said.
Like Lam, Que was also victorious in a local event in Manila last weekend and believes the work put in with his coach Bong Lopez is paying off at the scenic Suwan course.
“We worked on some shots into the wind because a lot of holes last week where into the wind and right to left which is one of my weaknesses. I was able to work out something and practiced it the whole week and used it on the course. This week, a lot of the shots are similar and I wouldn’t have dared to hit those shots if I didn’t work it out with Bong,” he said.
“The way I’m hitting it, I could have done better. I’m still happy. I hit it into the water on 18 but managed to get it up and down for par. I guess it’s a good omen.”