Image from Asian Tour
KIRADECH IN PRIME SPOT AT MAYBANK MALAYSIAN OPEN
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat put himself in prime position to win his first Asian Tour title after snatching the joint third round lead with Welshman Rhys Davies at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Saturday.
Kiradech, 20, brilliantly birdied three of his last four holes for a four-under-par 68 and a three-day total of 11-under-par 205 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Davies tied the Thai rising star with a battling 71, which included three birdies against a double bogey.
The final round of the US$2 million co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour event is poised for a photo finish as two-time champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand (69), Soren Hansen of Denmark (69) and Koreans K.J. Choi (69) and Noh Seung-yul (67) are a shot back on 206.
The hefty Kiradech, a former junior world champion, nearly sank the first hole-in-one of the tournament when his six-iron tee shot on the 15th ended an inch behind the hole. Although disappointed to not win a car on offer, it sparked a stunning finish as he went on to birdie 17 and 18.
“My ball striking has been improving and that has played a part in my good performance. I missed a couple of putts on the back nine but I’m happy with the way I finished,” said Kiradech.
“My highlight has to be the 15th hole. I almost won the car! I couldn’t see where my tee shot ended but heard the crowd shouting and when I walked over I saw the ball was about an inch from the hole. If I had won the car, I would have driven it back to Thailand,” added the Thai.
The big-hitting Kiradech hopes it will be third time lucky on Sunday as he has led twice previously going into the final round of an Asian Tour event, only to miss out on winning with the finish line in sight.
“It wasn’t my day (then). So I need to learn from those experiences and hope it will be better than my last two attempts,” said Kiradech, who returned early on Saturday to finish up four holes of his second round.
Davies, who played 25 holes on Saturday, rallied with two birdies on the front nine. After a double bogey on 10 which was a result of an errant drive into the water hazard, he fought back with a birdie on 17 and then missed a makeable birdie chance on the last for the outright lead.
“When you are playing well and making birdies, you don’t feel so tired but when a double bogey comes along you feel pretty shattered,” said Davies, who played on the Asian Tour in the last two seasons and won twice on the European Challenge Tour last year.
“It’s good pressure. If I shoot the best score tomorrow then I win. That’s a good thing. There are a number of great players up there so it is up to me to worry about my own game and try not to worry about them. If I score lower than them then I will come out on top,” he added.
Vying for a third Maybank Malaysian Open title, reigning Asian Tour number one Thongchai mixed his card with five birdies against two bogeys to return with a 69 and was relishing the opportunity to win a record-equaling third Malaysian Open victory.
“It was hard work, a long day. I came back for two holes this morning. I need to rest up tonight and tomorrow, and get ready. I’ll aim to play better tomorrow. I enjoyed it and had a good game plan. It was a bit hard as the pins were quite tough on the back nine but it was a good round. I’m pretty close now and I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said the former paratrooper.
Choi, aiming for a unique Malaysian double after his victory in the Iskandar Johor Open last October, was delighted to be in contention after firing five birdies against two bogeys.
“I put myself in a good position for the final round. I like where I am at. Yesterday and today, I just sweated so much and I feel weary now. Tomorrow, I just need to overcome the heat for one more day and try to close it out,” said Choi.
Malaysia’s M. Sasidaran returned a 74 for a 216 total in tied 44th place while compatriot Danny Chia shot a 78 to slip back to equal 72nd position.
Leading third round scores
205 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 68-69-68, Rhys Davies (WAL) 65-69-71
206 - Noh Seung-Yul (KOR) 69-70-67, K.J. Choi (KOR) 67-70-69, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 66-71-69, Soren Hansen (DEN) 70-67-69
207 - Johan Edfors (SWE) 69-69-69, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 67-69-71
208 - Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 65-72-71
209 - Rahil Gangjee (IND) 68-75-66, Danny Willett (ENG) 72-69-68, Soren Kjeldsen, (DEN) 71-70-68, Scott Barr (AUS) 68-71-70, Kim Dae-Hyun (KOR) 66-73-70, Angelo Que (PHI) 70-67-72
210 - Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE) 77-65-68
211 - Wu Ashun (CHN) 73-70-68
212 - Niclas Fasth (SWE) 69-73-70, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 70-72-70, Lu Wei-Chih (TPE) 74-70-68, Daniel Chopra (SWE) 71-70-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 73-71-68, Peter Lawrie (IRL) 69-72-71, Jason Knutzon (USA) 73-67-72