Kiradech charges into contention with 68 at US Open
Southampton, New York, June 16: From making the halfway cut right on the number, Kiradech Aphibarnrat found himself in title contention after a wild U.S. Open on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Thai star hit an impressive 2-under 68 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, taking advantage of an early start to shoot five birdies against three bogeys and rose 51 rungs to T7 on 6-over 216 in the year’s second major.
He will enter the final round only three shots behind co-leaders Dustin Johnson (77), Daniel Berger (66), Tony Finau (66) and defending champion Brooks Koepka (72).
Kiradech was only one of three players in the field to break par on golf’s ‘Moving Day’ – the other two being Berger and Finau – as he gave himself a shot at the title and a chance to wrap-up his PGA TOUR card for the 2018-19 season.
“It’s always pressure to be in the U.S. Open. To have a chance to play on the weekend is such a great week. And to move up a lot on my position, I just tried to do everything that my job had to do, keep the ball in play and just hope it will be my day,” said Kiradech, who has two top-5s at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
The big-hitting Thai, ranked 31st in the world, found all fairways on Saturday which made life easier for him. After making bogey on three when he found a greenside bunker, he bounced back with birdies on four, five and eight, converting putts from inside of 10 feet. He traded two more birdies on 12 and 17 against dropped shots on 13 and 14 for his first under-par round in two U.S. Open appearances.
Nearly five and a half hours after signing his scorecard, and with the leaders struggling as the winds picked up and greens became devilishly tricky, Kiradech found himself lying in the top-10 of a major championship at any stage for the first time in his blossoming career.
He knows he must repeat his heroics and stay patient on Sunday to have any chance of becoming only the second Asian golfer after South Korea’s Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA Championship) to win a major championship.
“I think it’s all about keeping the ball in play, under the wind and then put it in the right positions. Some putts you have to be a little bit against it, some putts you have to back off a little bit. It just has to be all about the game planning. If you hit it out of position, on this course when you make a mistake, it hurts a lot,” said Kiradech.
“This course, when the wind picks up, is a completely different golf course. Really difficult to put the ball in the fairways, and you can’t hold the greens. And the pins were really tricky. You just have to be really patient and really calm on the shot,” said Kiradech, who will play alongside Masters Tournament winner Patrick Reed in the fourth to last pairing on Sunday.
Koepka dropped four bogeys against two birdies for a 72 which earned him a share of the third round lead, giving himself a chance to retain the U.S. Open.
“I’m glad I’m in the position I’m in. I feel like, you know, obviously, going off in the morning was a little bit easier. Guys are spinning the balls on the greens. I don’t think there was this much wind. I’m not really quite sure. But it definitely got difficult (in the afternoon). You got to – comes down to winning a U.S. Open, you got to have some grit, some heart. I mean, I’ve won one, so why not win another?,” said Koepka.
Taking a four-shot lead into the third day, Johnson, who regained his world No. 1 mantle after winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week, made one double bogey, six bogeys and one birdied to fall back into the field.