Thailand’s Kiradech closer to PGA TOUR card after 17th hole drama
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, May 13: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat was kicking himself hard at THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday.
Through 16 holes, the 28-year-old bolted up the leaderboard with an eagle and six birdies at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, charging into the top-five in the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament after starting the final round in T55 position.
Although the leaders had yet to begin their rounds, staying on the first page of the leaderboard would have edged him closer towards a PGA TOUR card. All he needed to do was to safely negotiate the tricky par-3, 17th hole, which got him on Saturday with a double bogey.
In full flight and with thoughts of matching the course record of nine-under 63 flashing through his mind, the Thai remained aggressive when he stepped on the 17th tee but he paid dearly with two misjudged strikes which found water that surrounds the island green, leading to a quadruple bogey seven which saw him sign for a five-under 67 and settling for T30 position on eight-under 280 total.
Although the long-hitting Kiradech birdied his closing hole, the blow up on 17 left him seething.
“I don’t want to talk about it. 17 is … I shoot like 6-over this week, which is the last two days. That two balls in the water, that got the PGA TOUR card away from me and it’s just a pain,” said a despondent Kiradech.
“It’s such a good start, everything was rolling like the way I want it to. I think I got my A game out starting early, and it kept going all day. There wasn’t a missed shot. I think the one bad shot was on the third hole when I pulled my 7-iron a little bit too long, but I got up-and-down for par.”
Kiradech explained he was in between clubs standing on the 17th tee box.
“I had 126 (yards) to clear the water and 31 to the flag. I hit my wedge, like full wedge I can carry like 125, 127, that’s the maximum. And I believe it’s downwind from the right. So I tried to hit it as hard as I can but I missed it. I mishit it and it went about two yards short. I decided not to go to the drop area because I feel like it’s so grainy and tight (lie) there, so I hit it from the tee again with another wedge but I tried to hit it soft and mishit it again (into water),” said Kiradech.
He picked up 26.87 FedExCup points, raising his season tally to 290 points as a non-member to secure his Special Temporary Membership which now allows him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Season. Kiradech then needs to surpass the top-125 at the end of the season, which is anticipated to be around 365 points, to earn his PGA TOUR card for 2018-19.
“I know that I’m learning from playing on tougher golf courses, but the 17th hole is just one good shot and you can walk away with a two, it’s just a short par-3. But I think I was a little bit too aggressive and when you’re playing under pressure and, at one point of the game I was looking at the course record as well. I was like eight-under and I didn’t get birdie on 16, I don’t know, it just popped up in my mind, but it’s not a big deal,” he said.
Kiradech finished 10 shots behind winner Webb Simpson who won his first PLAYERS title by four shots after closing with a 73.