Thailand’s Kiradech keeps it real and simple
New York, June 13: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat is keeping his goals realistic at the U.S. Open which begins at Shinnecock Hills on Thursday.
Famed for its demanding and tough scoring conditions, the 28-year-old hopes to simply play in all four rounds at the year’s second major and finish in the top-30 this week. Anything more would be a bonus.
“This is only my second U.S. Open and we know this tournament is always very difficult. Anything inside the cut line, if I can make the top-30 on Sunday, it’ll be good for me,” said Kiradech, who missed the halfway cut in his debut appearance in 2016.
Two impressive top-five finishes at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play have pushed Kiradech onto the brink of becoming the first Thai to earn a full PGA TOUR card. He also finished T30 at THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament last month, and T13 at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
The strong run of form has seen Kiradech earn 340 FedExCup points and a Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR which now allows him to accept unlimited sponsor’s invitations for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. He then needs to equal or better the 125th ranked golfer on the final FedExCup points standing this season to gain his card, which is expected to be around 365 points.
While getting onto the PGA TOUR is his ultimate goal, the Thai is fully focused at the task ahead at Shinnecock Hills. “I played nine holes each day over the last two days and the course looks fantastic. Everybody recognizes it’s always going to be a tough course with high scores. But If you find plenty of fairways, you have a chance to hit it near the flags but if you make mistakes, it will hurt,” said Kiradech, a former Asian Tour No. 1.
Although he missed the weekend play at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, which was only his second missed cut this year, the big-hitting Thai is pleased with his form. “I actually hit it good but my putting was over my usual standard and I didn’t get it done. My game is in good shape,” said Kiradech, who will play the first two rounds with China’s Haotong Li and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim.
“I’ve been sticking to my routine here and I’ve learned to not overdo things in big events. Just stay focused and stay calm. I’ve been playing good golf over the past few months.”
Kiradech, who won the ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Australia on the Asian and European Tour in February, also enjoyed being part of an International team dinner gathering on Tuesday following an invitation from team captain Ernie Els.
“It was an honour to be invited and meet the other prospective International team members. We don’t know who the 12 players will be for next year but it’s good to know each other better now, and to hear what Ernie has in his mind. I can see Ernie is really looking at every detail ahead of the 2019 Presidents Cup,” said Kiradech, who is ranked 31st in the world and currently the fourth highest ranked International team member after Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman.
He is determined to become the second Thai after close friend Thongchai Jaidee to feature in the Presidents Cup, which sees the International team facing a Tiger Woods-led United States at Royal Melbourne in December of 2019.
“It’s not about winning money, it’s about playing for the team, pride and having the honour to represent the International team. We represent billions of people, so it’s very important for me to get into the team, said Kiradech.
Other leading Asians in the field this week include Japan’s world No. 10 Hideki Matsuyama, India’s Shubhankar Sharma, South Korea’s Byeong Hun An and China’s Liang Wen-chong, a former winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.