Kiradech guns for historic win #AfrAsiaOpen

From Asian Tour

2015 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open: PreviewsThai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be gunning for a second title in a month when he headlines the €1 million (approximately US$1.1 million) AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open which starts on Thursday.

The big-hitting former Asian Tour number one is enjoying a rich vein of form, winning in China three weeks ago while he also posted top-10 finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and True Thailand Classic earlier in the season.

With South African rising star George Coetzee and Ryder Cup stalwart Thomas Bjorn of Denmark also in the fray for the first ever tri-sanctioned tournament by the Asian, European and Sunshine Tours at the Heritage Golf Club, Kiradech, 25, is keen to play his way into the history books by becoming the first champion of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

“I’m more than ready to play. My golf is solid, my confidence is good. I’m looking forward to it,” said Kiradech.

“I feel excited. It’s the first time I’m in this nice island of Mauritius. Everything is nice, the hotel, the golf course, it’s in great condition. It’s our first time having a tri-sanctioned tournament and I want to thank AfrAsia Bank, Sunshine Tour and European Tour for giving our players the opportunity to be here.”

Kiradech’s career is trending upwards once again after a lull in 2014, which was the year after he lifted the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit trophy. He lost his way following the passing of his long-time coach but after hooking up with Pompetch Saraputti for over a year now, the burly Thai feels his golf is in the right place again.

“I have confidence with my swing again. I’m striking the ball solid,” said Kiradech, who is ranked 77th in the world. “I quite like the golf course. My driver is doing great right now and hopefully I can continue to drive it well and have the opportunity to challenge for the title.

“My fiancée (Thanyarat Chaiyarat) and coach are with me. Being in a place like this will help clear my mind and also help get me ready for the week and the rest of the season.”

World number 63 Coetzee and 15-time European Tour winner Bjorn, ranked 67th in the world, will lead the challenges from South Africa and Europe respectively but Kiradech said he is only concerned with himself.

“They are all great players. But the one guy that I have to fight is myself. If I can play the way I know I can, I will have a chance. Golf is all about you and yourself,” he said.

Veteran Bjorn finished tied fourth in Indonesia two weeks ago to signal a return to form following a struggle with injuries and a trip to the world-famous holiday isle has been rejuvenating for the big Dane.

“It’s a fantastic place to come. The whole resort and setting is as good as it comes,” said Bjorn. “I’ve had a lot of injuries this year. I’m not 100 per cent but I like what I see in practice. I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.”

The 44-year-old Bjorn, who is also the European Tour’s tournament committee chairman, was excited to see the three main Tours collaborating for the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. “We are three tours that work very well together and we have strong ties. That’s hugely important for growing the game around the world,” he said.

Power-packed Coetzee is tipped to rise up the leaderboard following a strong campaign at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play last week where he won two matches against Martin Kaymer and Thongchai Jaidee in the group stages. A six-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, which includes two co-sanctioned titles with Europe, the 28-year-old is preparing to work hard and play hard in Mauritius.

“It’s fun here. I’m actually looking forward to finishing my round so I can get back out on the beach, but it should be a fun week. It’s always nice to come to a place like this. It’s a big step for the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour, and it’s obviously great for the European Tour to get another one on the schedule, but it’s great to give the guys some game time and play against some of the best players in the world,” he said.


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