Shah Alam, Malaysia: Big-hitting Kiradech Aphibarnrat is itching to earn his place in Team Asia to face Europe in the second edition of the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM from January 15-17.
The world number 40, who has enjoyed two victories this season, recalls with great fondness the thrilling fightback by the Asians who forced an improbable 10-10 draw with Europe at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club last year.
“Hopefully I will qualify for the team. I’m looking forward to it,” said the 26-year-old, who was the Asian Tour number one in 2013.
Europe dominated the opening Fourball session by winning all five matches in 2014 before Asia, led then by playing captain Thongchai Jaidee, launched a fightback by winning the Foursomes session 3-2 and then rallying in the Singles session by winning seven points from the available 10 on the final day.
“If you look back at the first edition, it was unbelievable that we could come back but we made it happen. It was like a miracle. We showed we were strong and we fought back well,” said Kiradech.
“It’s not easy to beat the European players but we managed to do it (on the second and third days.”
Kiradech said the inaugural showdown, dubbed the Ryder Cup of the East, proved to be a huge success as it signaled Asia’s stature in the game but added it also impacted his own game positively.
“It gave me a lot of experience. I learned a lot by playing in the EurAsia Cup as it was a team event and the pressure was different. The pressure that I had in the last day singles was so much more than I’ve ever felt playing in any other stroke play event. That’s why I felt strong when I played and won the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in Scotland earlier this year,” said Kiradech.
“If you look at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, you don’t see the teams sharing the trophy. But in the EurAsia Cup, it’s a good memory that we shared the first trophy. The European team was strong but it wasn’t easy for them. We showed we too are strong enough to force a draw.”
The burly Thai, who has built an army of fans around the world with his grip it-and-rip it style of play, is poised to qualify for Team Asia via the Official World Golf Ranking. With India’s golf legend Jeev Milkha Singh captaining the side, Kiradech is eager to begin his 2016 campaign in Malaysia where he is a former Malaysian Open champion.
“In normal events, you play for yourself. You miss the putt, or miss the cut, it’s you who feel it. If you win, it’s for yourself. But in the team event, if you play good, you can impact the team and if you play bad, you can bring the team down. That’s why everybody tries their hardest to play well,” said Kiradech.
He said the draw helped Asian golf earn the respect from the international fraternity.
“Every one looked at the European team and saw that they were strong and the fans came out to support Europe. But after we showed that we are strong enough to play with them, a lot of people changed their mind,” said Kiradech.
“I think Jeev will be a very good captain and I’m looking forward to making the team again.”
The EurAsia Cup will feature 24 matches, with day one showcasing six Fourball matches, followed by six Foursomes matches and 12 Singles matches on the third day.
The winning team will share prize money of US$3.6 million while the runners-up will share US$1.2 million.
Team Asia will be selected as follows: the leading four available Asian players from the 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit as of December 14, the leading four eligible and available Asian players from the Official World Golf Ranking as of December 14, and four captain’s picks.
Team Europe will be selected as follows: the leading 10 available players from the final 2015 Race to Dubai rankings plus two captain’s picks.
DRB-HICOM Berhad is one of Malaysia’s leading conglomerates with core businesses in the Automotive and Defence; Services; and Property, Asset & Construction sectors. With more than 90 active companies in its stable and over 60,000 employees group-wide, DRB-HICOM’s aim is to continue adding value and propelling the nation’s development. In the Automotive and Defence sector, DRB-HICOM is involved in the manufacturing, assembly and distribution of passenger and commercial vehicles, including composites component supply for aircrafts. In Services, DRB-HICOM is involved in various businesses, including concession and financial-related services. In Property, Asset & Construction, DRB-HICOM is involved in residential and commercial developments.
About Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM)
Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) is a Company Limited by Guarantee, registered on 5th August 2010 in Malaysia. As a non-profit organisation, PGM’s objectives are to promote the sport of golf and to contribute towards its enjoyment and growth as well as to conduct and/or coordinate training on golf-related courses in order to enhance the playing capabilities and hone the skills of professional golfers in Malaysia. Our ultimate goal is to produce good Malaysian Professional Golfers in time for the Olympics in 2016 and to see Malaysians in the world ranking list. The PGM Tour provides a platform for Malaysia’s professional golfers to enable them to focus on playing while PGM shoulders the responsibility of arranging and financing these tournaments. For further information, please log in to http://pgmtour.com.my
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include FENIX Golf (Official Apparel Supplier), Fuji Xerox (Official Office Solutions Partner), Hilton Worldwide (Official Hotel Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Sponsor), Oakley (Official Eyewear and Footwear Sponsor), Srixon (Official Ball), Titleist (Official Web Partner) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). Sentosa, Singapore is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur. Also, visit us at www.asiantour.com, www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf, www.twitter.com/asiantourgolf, www.youtube.com/theasiantour and www.weibo.com/asiantourgolf.
About The European Tour
The European Tour is committed to celebrating the game of golf from the origins of the professional game, building a proud history of achievement, sportsmanship and integrity as well as showcasing our diverse global talent and rich landscapes. The European Tour's innovative approach enables us to embrace the world, combining championships of tradition with new tournaments in the cities and countries of the future. The European Tour International Schedule, which from 2009 has incorporated The Race to Dubai, is a thriving global brand which, in 2015, will feature a minimum of 48 tournaments spread across five continents; the European Challenge Tour focuses on the up and coming players of the future; while the European Senior Tour provides a new start for champions celebrating their 50th birthday. The European Tour’s corporate identity features the iconic silhouette image of six-time Open Champion Harry Vardon who gives his name to The Harry Vardon Trophy, presented to the player who is crowned European Tour Number One and winner of The Race to Dubai at the end of the season.