By PGATOUR.COM staff
A pair of early starters -- England's Paul Casey and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat -- took similar but very different paths to identical 3-under 69s in Round 1 of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
Playing in the same group, both had a pair of over-par scores on their cards but while Casey was able to offset his two bogeys with five birdies, Aphibarnrat needed seven birdies to counter his pair of double bogeys.
" I'm happy with 69," Casey said. "3‑Under is not bad. It will be in touch with the leaders, by the end of the day, (though) I expect guys to go pretty low out there. Scoring is going to be good."
Overnight rains softened the course and birdies continued to fall late into the afternoon at Sheshan International, back as the host venue after a one-year hiatus. Aphibarnrat started quickly with four birdies on his first six holes, but doubles on Nos. 4 and 15 prevented him from making a run at the first-round lead.
"Good start today again," Aphibarnrat said. "Was making birdies, made a lot of putts. The big mistake on the fourth hole was I hit a poor seven, made double, and (I had a) bad lie on 15. But I'm still happy with the way I started."
PGA TOUR status is on the line for Aphibarnrat, who leads the Asian Tour money list. A win at this week's event, would bring him onto the TOUR instantly. A top-5 finish could net him enough non-member FedExCup points to earn Special Temporary membership, which would allow Aphibarnrat unlimeted sponsor's exemptions for the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season.
Casey and Aphibarnrat played Thursday with Peter Uihlein, who posted a 1-under 71 as the group took advantage of the Thursday conditions.
" We had a group of long hitters, so I think, yeah, you've got to take advantage of the long drives out here," Casey said "But it is a tight golf course. You have to drive it pretty accurately, as well. Plenty of water and plenty of trouble that you can get into if you're not careful. Certainly a long tee shot will give you a big advantage over everybody else."
Casey, Aphibarnrat and Uihlein will look to continue to drive it well and climb the leaderboard when they tee it up Friday at 10:20 a.m. local time (10:20 p.m. ET Thursday night).
After coming within a shot of making a playoff at the CIMB Classic, the question is now: Will Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat continue to pursue his goal of a PGA TOUR card?
If he wants it, the big 24-year-old has a spot in The McGladrey Classic in two weeks at Sea Island, Ga. That would make it three PGA TOUR events in a row for Aphibarnrat, who is also in the field this week at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. A high finish there would all but assure him Special Temporary Membership.
Aphibarnrat missed a birdie putt that would have put in a playoff Monday at the CIMB Classic. Instead, he finished tied for third with Chris Stroud, earning over $400,000 and virtually securing the No. 1 spot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Aphibarnrat, a non-TOUR member, would have earned 163 FedExCup points would his finish. He can play
The McGladrey Classic and hope for another top-10 (which assures yet another start) or finish high enough to score enough FedExCup points to earn Special Temporary status. Such status would give him unlimited sponsor exemptions into PGA TOUR events, making it much easier to earn full membership.
"I think the schedule will change right now," Aphibarnrat said. "If I have my chance even like just 1 percent, I will try and do it."
Aphibarnrat had several chances to win Sunday and erase all membership doubts, but his his putter went cold on the back nine and he went without a birdie on the final 12 holes.
"After I saw my name on the top of the leaderboard, I think I pushed too much," Aphibarnrat said.
By PGATOUR.COM Staff
Kiradech Aphibarnrat stayed in contention at the CIMB Classic, shooting a second-round 69 at a golf course he calls ‘home.’ He's tied for third at 8-under 136 (67-69) after two rounds, five shots behind leader Keegan Bradley.
Aphibarnrat, who leads the Asian Tour order of merit, opened with three consecutive birdies before making 10 consecutive pars, including a chip-in save on No. 8. His only bogey came at No. 14, but he rebounded with a birdie at the par-5 18th.
Aphibarnrat, 24, played the first two rounds with Phil Mickelson and defending champion Nick Watney. Aphibarnrat beat Mickelson by five shots and Watney by eight.
Aphibarnrat already had one career-changing week in Malaysia in 2013, winning this year’s Malaysia Open, also at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club; he earned European Tour status by winning that event, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour.
“Every time I play here, I feel like I’m home,” Aphibarnrat said. “I guess it is due to the weather and a lot of fans follow me and are cheering me. That gives me a lot of power to play in this country. I love to come here and I always look forward to playing here.
“I will still stick with my game plan. I don’t want to attack too much because this type of greens this week is quite firm and the pin position is more difficult. If you attack too much, you will get in a lot of trouble. I just try to play easy golf and try to give myself a lot of chances to putt.”
He’s halfway to another big week. A win would earn him PGA TOUR membership and a Masters invitation, while a second-place finish at the CIMB would earn him enough points for special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions in the 2013-14 season.
Even if he falls short of those goals, a high finish would get him off to a good start in the quest for special temporary membership. He’s in the field in next week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and will likely earn one of the two spots in the WGC-Cadillac Championship given to the leaders of the Asian Tour order of merit. He’s earned $711,074 on the Asian Tour this year, while third-place Gaganjeet Bhullar has earned $286,953. The World Golf Championships are no-cut events, guaranteeing him additional FedExCup points.
A top-10 in the CIMB would earn Aphibarnrat a start at the McGladrey Classic on Nov. 7-10, as well.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat's physique and playi have drawn comparisons to John Daly. (Shamus/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds with a go-for-broke mentality, Kiradech Aphibarnrat sometimes draws comparisons as Asia's John Daly.
The 24-year-old from Thailand would like nothing better than to follow in Daly's footsteps, too, and make the PGA Championship his first PGA TOUR win. Aphibarnrat is off to a solid start, too, after opening with a 68 at Oak Hill on Thursday.
"I still just tried to play my best golf," Aphibarnrat said when asked if he had a target score. "... Just take on the game plan and take on the fairway and give me a lot of chances to putt."
Daly was an alternate when he broke through in 1991 at Shoal Creek. Aphibarnrat, on the other hand, picked up his first win on the European Tour this year and is ranked 85th in the world.
Aphibarnrat is playing his second straight event in the United States. He opened with rounds of 69 and 68 at Firestone last week and went on to tie for 40th at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
The Thai also opened with a 72 at Muirfield in his major championship debut at The Open Championship but followed that with an 85 and missed the cut.
"The Open was tough, same here," Apribarnrat said. "I lost confidence really quickly after I make bogey on the first hole. ... This week, don't want to force myself. I can't say what score I want to shoot. Just take on the game plan."
Aphibarnrat said Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, a five-time winner in Europe, has been very helpful to him. Jaidee is playing in his 18th major and sixth PGA this week.
"He helps me practice and he has a lot of experience to teach me ," Aphibarnrat said. "You know, this type of course, you have to be focused on the fairways. Your long game is key on this course."