Kiradech maintains winning run
Austin, Texas, March 23: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat maintained his winning run at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play with a thrilling 1-up triumph over Keegan Bradley of the United States on Thursday.
After a comfortable opening day win over Chez Reavie, Kiradech produced late birdies on 17 and 18 to turn the tables on Bradley at the Austin Country Club in the Group 3 match.
The former Asian Tour No. 1, who won the 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play and last month’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth which featured a match play format on the last day, needs a win or a half in his last group match against world No. 3 Jon Rahm on Friday to move into knock-out phase for the first time in his career.
South Korea’s Siwoo Kim, the reigning THE PLAYERS Championship winner, cruised to a 5 & 3 win over Gary Woodlands to keep alive his hopes of progressing into the next round. Kim, who halved his opening match with Pat Perez, faces Webb Simpson on Friday where the winner will advance from Group 15.
The other Asians in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play suffered losses on day two. World No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama fell to Australian Cameron Smith 1-up, India’s Shubhankar Sharma lost to Xander Schauffele 3 & 1, Satoshi Kodaira of Japan lost 1-up to Phil Mickelson, Yuta Ikeda lost 1-up to Matt Kuchar and China’s Haotong Li was defeated by Jordan Spieth 4 & 2. Only Ikeda and Matsuyama have a chance to progress into the next round depending on the outcomes of Friday’s matches.
Kiradech’s showdown with Bradley, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, was a close affair with the Thai holding a 1-up lead at the turn. The lead switched hands on 16 when Bradley made birdie but Kiradech fought back with birdies from six feet and 13 feet over the last two holes to seal a hard-fought win.
“I’m really proud with the way I putted on the last hole. I tried to control myself, (keep) calm, and play shot by shot all day. First time I get 1-down on 16 but it was nice the last two holes,” said a delighted Kiradech, who made seven birdies during his match.
“It means a lot. I have been playing good golf. I’m really comfortable with the swing for a couple of months now. Then match play really suit my game. So I think, just keep playing my own game, pay attention, keep calm.”
Kiradech, who finished tied fifth at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship earlier this month, still have to take care of business on Friday against Rahm, who is already out of the running after losing to Reavie in the other group match on Thursday. “It’s still about tomorrow. If I win tomorrow, I will win the group,” said the Thai.
A strong showing in Austin could also enhance Kiradech’s dream of earning playing rights on the PGA TOUR. “The next one (goal) would be PGA TOUR card, which is one of the goals for everyone in the world. Especially from a little country in Asia like Thailand, to have a card over here will be fantastic,” he said.
South Korea’s Kim, playing in his second WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, made five birdies on a bogey-free card to see off Woodlands and faces a do-or-die match against Simpson, who beat Pat Perez, in his attempt to progress into the next phase of competition.