KIRADECH PLAYS A CRITICAL ROLE FOR ASIA AT THE ROYAL TROPHY


Kiradech Aphibarnrat is hoping to complete a dramatic swing in fortunes at the Royal Trophy after being given the task of going out as the Asian Team’s spearhead in the Singles matches.

A year ago, the Thai golfer was reduced to the role of cheerleader, after being nominated as the Asian player to sit out the Singles when European player–captain Jose Maria Olazabal Was forced to withdraw through injury. Kiradech had no complaints about that move, admitting he was playing poorly. But what a difference a year makes, especially one that has seen him perform brilliantly on the world stage, and win the Asian Order of Merit for the first time.

At this Royal Trophy he has been Asia’s outstanding performer over the first two days, partnering fellow Thai star Thongchai Jaidee to two impressive wins over the highly–rated Scottish duo of Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher. And no–one could question Asian Captain Y.E. Yang’s decision to send Kiradech out first – closely followed by Thongchai – as the Royal Trophy holders bid to extend their 5–3 lead into a winning score by putting more points on the board as quickly as possible.

Kiradech was typically modest about being given the responsibility of leading the Asian Team off at Dragon lake Golf Club for a third day in succession. He said: “I am just happy that I was able to play so well with Thongchai and get two points on the board for the Captain and my teammates.

“I feel very comfortable alongside Thongchai, and even though I will be going out alone this time I have built up a lot of confidence from the way I have played so far.

“Even though I did not play my best golf last year I kept telling everyone I had gained a lot of experience from being part of a winning Asian Team, and I wanted to make sure I contributed a bit more this time.

“This is a strong European Team, but I think our Asian Team has shown we can feel confident in our own ability, and that we can finish the job on Sunday.”

Kiradech and Thongchai again find themselves facing Lawrie and Gallacher in their Singles matches, and European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal joked: “I think those four will be very good friends by the end of this competition.”

His belief that his Team may have wrestled the initiative off the Asian Team with some late heroics from Alvaro Quiros was taken up by Danish ace Thorbjorn Olesen, who celebrated his 24th birthday by partnering Bernd Wiesberger to a vital Fourball victory over Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan.

Olesen was brimming with confidence as he said: “I never expected to be celebrating my birthday in China at such a great hotel, playing golf on such a wonderful course with great teammates – but it’s great to be here.

“Bernd and I always felt in control of our match, even when we were a hole down at the turn, and winning an important point was a good way to celebrate.

“I think we can take a lot of heart from the way the Fourball session finished, with Alvaro striking a crucial blow with his birdie to earn a half point on the last hole.

“We believe that has given us the momentum for the Singles, and two points is not too big a deficit to make up if we all play our best golf.”

Sunday will feature the final day of the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy with eight Singles being played. The winning continent will be awarded stewardship of the perpetual solid-silver sixteen-kilogram Trophy graciously donated by His Majesty the King of Thailand.

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