THAI star Kiradech Aphibarnrat is keeping his goals realistic at the US Open which tees off at Shinnecock Hills in New York state today.
On a course famed for its tough scoring conditions, the 28-year-old hopes to simply play in all four rounds at the year’s second major and finish in the top-30. Anything more would be a bonus.
“This is only my second US Open and we know this tournament is always very difficult. Anything inside the cut line, if I can make the top-30 on Sunday, it’ll be good for me,” said Kiradech, who missed the halfway cut in his debut appearance in 2016.
Two impressive top-five finishes at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play have pushed Kiradech to the brink of becoming the first Thai to earn a full PGA Tour card.
The strong run of form has seen Kiradech earn 340 FedEx Cup points and temporary tour membership via unlimited sponsor’s invitations for the remainder of the season. He then needs to make the top 125 in the final FedEx Cup points standing to gain his card, which is expected to be around 365 points.
While a PGA Tour card is his ultimate goal, the Thai is fully focused at the task ahead at Shinnecock Hills. “I played nine holes each day over the last two days and the course looks fantastic. Everybody recognises it’s always going to be a tough course with high scores. But If you find plenty of fairways, you have a chance to hit it near the flags but if you make mistakes, it will hurt,” said Kiradech, a former Asian Tour No 1.
“My game is in good shape,” said Kiradech, who will play the first two rounds with China’s Haotong Li and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim.
“I’ve been sticking to my routine here and I’ve learned to not overdo things in big events. Just stay focused and stay calm. I’ve been playing good golf over the past few months.”
Kiradech, who won the ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Australia on the Asian and European Tour in February, also enjoyed being part of an International team dinner on Tuesday at the invitation of team captain Ernie Els.
“It was an honour to be invited and meet the other prospective International team members. We don’t know who the 12 players will be for next year but it’s good to know each other better now, and to hear what Ernie has in his mind. I can see Ernie is really looking at every detail ahead of the 2019 Presidents Cup,” said Kiradech, who is ranked 31st in the world and currently the fourth highest ranked International team member after Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman.
He is determined to become the second Thai after close friend Thongchai Jaidee to feature in the Presidents Cup, which sees the International team facing a Tiger Woods-led United States at Royal Melbourne in December of 2019.
“It’s not about winning money, it’s about playing for the team, pride and having the honour to represent the International team. We represent billions of people, so it’s very important for me to get into the team, said Kiradech.