Runaway Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat is the latest star to be selected to represent Asia in the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy to be held at Dragon Lake Golf Club in China’s most populous province of Guangdong on 20-22 December 2013.

The Thai golfer’s stunning achievements this year means he is virtually certain to finish at the top of the Asian Tour – with earnings currently almost double those of second placed Scott Hend of Australia. And his remarkable performances in top class company have earned him a spot in what is shaping up to be the strongest Asian Team assembled so far in the history of the region’s original team golf competition.

Kiradech, 24, has produced some spectacular golf to surge clear of his rivals on Tour, highlighted by his victory in the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open. He overcame a frustrating series of bad weather breaks due to thunderstorms as well as a high class field to score a one shot victory over former European Royal Trophy and Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari.

But it could be argued that he played even better in defeat when he returned to Malaysia to finish third in the USD 7 million CIMB Classic. Kiradech was right in the hunt all week, and was leading the tournament with 12 holes to play – only to miss out on a play-off by one shot, as Ryan Moore edged out fellow American Gary Woodland in ‘extra time’.

But the Thai star won an army of new admirers, led by five-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson, who partnered Kiradech in the first two rounds and eventually finished eight shots behind him. Mickelson commented: “He’s really a good player, and he hits the ball a long way. But I think the greatest strength of his game is his hands, his ability to hit wedges and shots around the greens.”

Asian Captain Y.E.Yang and Vice-Captain Zhang Lian-wei clearly agreed with that assessment, and they called up Kiradech soon after naming his fellow Thai star Thongchai Jaidee for a record-breaking sixth Royal Trophy appearance.

Thongchai, who has won the Asian Tour Order of Merit three times, tipped Kiradech as a future dominant player several years ago, and there is every chance the Thai golfers will team up against Europe at the Dragon Lake Golf Club. That prospect clearly appeals to Kiradech, who shares Thongchai’s burning passion for the competition.

Kiradech commented: “It is fantastic that Thongchai and I are both in the Asian Team. We will be carrying the Thai and the Asian flags and we will play our hearts out to retain stewardship of the beautiful solid-silver Trophy donated by His Majesty our beloved King of Thailand. This is a championship that is to be held in the highest regard and that is to be treated with the greatest respect by all Asian golf.

“I have enormous respect for Captain Y.E. Yang. I will fight very hard on the golf course to win as many points as possible for Asia and to make the biggest contribution I possibly can to give Captain Y.E. Yang a first victory in command of the Asian Team.”

Kiradech’s confidence was boosted by the fact that he made a winning debut for Asia last year. He could not contain his delight when K.T. Kim of Korea holed the decisive birdie putt to give Asia the victory in the sudden death play-off after the Teams finished tied at 8-8.

He added: “When K.T. (Kim) holed the birdie putt in the play-off last year, it was an amazing feeling. We were all dancing, jumping and celebrating that fantastic victory over Europe. I definitely want to relive that emotion with my teammates at Dragon Lake Golf Club in China this year.

“When Asia won the Royal Trophy in 2009 in Thailand it was a great celebration but our continent was unable to defend it in 2010 or to regain it in 2011. This is our chance to defend the Royal Trophy for the very first time – and to send the Europeans back home without the Trophy for a second consecutive time.”

“The Royal Trophy is totally different to a normal week on Tour. We are competing as a team, we are united for Asia irrespective of which country we come from, we are playing under a great captain and we are facing the Europeans – who have extensive experience in team golf. The Royal Trophy has a very special place in the hearts of Asian golfers because this is our official, established and traditional team competition.

“This is our Ryder Cup. This is our major championship. This is an event which we are very proud to participate in and a tournament we play with complete and unrelenting determination to win.

“The Europeans are currently the holders of the Ryder Cup. But we will not let them get their hands on the Royal Trophy – we will send them back to Europe empty-handed.”

Kiradech will be delighted to see the ice-cool Kim alongside him in the Asian Team once more. He has already been selected, along with Thongchai, and China’s top player, Liang Wen-chong. The Asian Team will also boast a trio of Japanese superstars in Ryo Ishikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, and Hiroyuki Fujita.

“Captain Y.E. Yang is clearly constructing a remarkable Asian Team for the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy,” stated Lincoln Venancio, the Royal Trophy Managing Director.

“European Captain José Maria Olazábal has tremendous history in team golf, Dragon Lake Golf Club promises to be a magnificent host venue and we are very confident that the Guangzhou Municipality will be an outstanding host city. The Royal Trophy is very well positioned for a fantastic success as Asia’s premier and only official continental team golf competition,” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

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