You probably hadn’t heard of him before this week, but Kiradech Aphibarnrat could be spending some more time on the PGA Tour if he keeps up play like this.
The 24-year-old from Thailand has been a professional since 2008, but has been playing at a high level since he was just 14 years old. After winning his age group at the 2003 and 2004 Junior World Golf Championships, he’s gone on to a career that has seen him play primarily on the Japan Golf Tour and the Asian Tour.
In March of this year, though, Aphibarnrat won his first European Tour tournament, the Maybank Malaysian Open. His single-stroke triumph over Edoardo Molinari in the rain-shortened event earned him full status on that Tour, but he’s got his sights set even higher.
In the 2013 season, Aphibarnrat played in three events that counted towards potential PGA Tour membership. He missed the cut at Muirfield in the Open Championship, but earned a tie for 25th at the PGA Championship and a payday just shy of $60,000.
This week, when he returned to the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club for the CIMB Classic, he hoped to capture some of the same magic from his earlier win in March, and he showed that his game was up to the task.
In a strong field highlighted by PGA Tour stars like Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Sergio Garcia, Aphibarnrat finished tied for third at his “home course” and earned a $406,000 payday. While it isn’t the win that would have earned him instant status on the PGA Tour – much like Jordan Spieth accomplished last season – he’s almost assured of Special Temporary Member status, and the opportunity to parlay sponsor’s exemptions into a full time Tour card.
Obviously, some of Aphibarnrat’s success this week can be attributed to his familiarity with the course that most of the field didn’t have, but as they say, game doesn’t lie. He’s not just a bomber with the driver; he was tied for second in driving accuracy and led the field in greens in regulation.
To play as well as some of the best the game has to offer is no small feat, and if he can bring that to the American tour, he could be around for years to come.