BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat has a score to settle at THE PLAYERS Championship this week.
At last year’s showpiece, he bravely launched a final day charge up the leaderboard at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, getting to eight-under for the day before a quadruple bogey 7 at the famous par-3 17th signature hole sank his hopes.
The first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card, Kiradech is fired up to launch another strong challenge especially when he is fresh from a T3 finish at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
“I’m confident with my golf swing. I had a good week in Mexico and last week (Arnold Palmer Invitational) was also a good week (he finished T23). We’ve got a tough field here and a tough course to manage. However, I think I’ve almost secured my card for next season, so it releases some stress a little bit and this will allow me to play my own game. Now, I can go for it,” said Kiradech, who is ranked 48th on the FedExCup points list.
Kiradech recalled his horror show on 17 last year where he was six-over on that hole alone during the weekend rounds. If he had made pars on both days, he could have theoretically finished T2 behind winner Webb Simpson. Instead he finished T30.
“Just one hole I didn’t play good,” said Kiradech. “I’ve forgotten already what I did last year and it’s a new tournament this week. The course is always in good shape, it’s a fantastic week. It’s in perfect condition and the fans are out to support us. I don’t think the course is different with the date change (from May). The wind is always difficult around here as it swirls from every direction. On 17, it can be tough as the grandstands block the winds so you can’t see what happens up in the air. It’s all up to me, and I want to put myself in the right position and keep it in play.”
Kiradech and his wife Tunyatorn Chaiyarat have quickly settled down in Orlando with the Thai star relishing the opportunity to compete against the world’s best every week. He believes a maiden PGA TOUR win is within his grasp despite the strength in depth on TOUR.
“On the PGA TOUR, you have to play against great players but it’s good being here. If I can win one event, everything will be easier. You have to hit ball well, have a good mental game and have some good luck to beat these guys,” he said.
With his TOUR card nearly secured for the 2019-20 season, Kiradech continues to cast an eye on the Presidents Cup later this year where he hopes to make the International Team for the first time.
He had two opportunities at the Genesis Open and The Honda Classic to impress International Team Captain Ernie Els after being paired with the South African legend but the Thai missed the cut on both occasions.
“I played terrible golf. Although I missed the cut with a bogey on the last hole in L.A., I wasn’t happy with my game. Then in Honda, we had Adam Scott, a former World No. 1 and Masters winner, in our group and we both played like we were beginners while Ernie just kept hitting the middle of the green and holing putts.
“I know I let him down but Ernie knows my game and I’ll try to prove myself. He knows what I have in my pocket, what I can do. I’ll try to get better and be ready and make sure if he picks me or if I qualify, I want to contribute to the team,” said Kiradech, who is currently 14th on the International Team points list.
As the PGA TOUR’s flagship event, THE PLAYERS Championship will offer US$12.5 million in total prize money this week and showcase 50 of the top-50 players from the FedExCup points list and 50 of the top-50 from the Official World Golf Ranking. TPC Sawgrass is also highly regarded as being a true test of golf.
Webb Simpson is the defending champion and will face a stellar field which features two-time PLAYERS champion Tiger Woods, current FedExCup No. 1 Xander Schauffele and World No. 1 Justin Rose.