03 Mar 2020

Aphibarnrat – Looking to bounce back in 2020

Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat is looking to put a rollercoaster year behind him and kick on – starting with overtaking fellow countryman Jazz Janewattananond in the race for qualification for the Olympics and climbing back up the World Ranking.

The 30-year-old enjoyed three top-5 finishes in the early portion of last season in his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, but a knee injury curtailed his progress and he finished 83rd on the FedEx Cup points list. He also failed to qualify for the International Team for the Presidents Cup, which was a big career goal.

Heading into 2020 his ranking had sunk to 120th and a run of three missed cuts from the Phoenix Open through Pebble Beach and the Genesis Invitational saw him drop outside the top 130. However, he remains bullish he can bounce back and is happy to be feeling healthy again. “I have to think my body is much better now, but it’s still not 100%,” Aphibarnrat said. “I’m looking for that one good week to bring my confidence back to normal. In the past few months, I’ve been working more in the gym and hopefully it’ll be better for me. I’ve been building the muscles around the knee and I think it’s going in the right direction.”

Kiradech Aphibarnrat with Thai LPGA players Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn during the Par 3 Contest prior to last year’s Masters.

Working his way into his second campaign on the US circuit, Aphibarnrat believes his is better equipped to deal with the change of lifestyle he used to have on the European Tour. He posted a share of eighth place at the CJ Cup in Korea in October last year – which is a 2020 season event – but a T27 at the Puerto Rico Open represents his best result this calendar year so far on the US-based circuit.

“I believe I can do better. I started well last year but I didn’t quite manage to play my best golf at all, which is partially due to my injury. I had a lot of missed cuts and I didn’t get used to some of the courses,” he said. “My coach, Mike Walker, looks at my stats regularly, and it was obvious my iron play was not as sharp as what I’m used to. The chipping and short game were not good too and there are a lot of things to improve, which I have been working on.

“I think I’m a bit nervous out here. I want to make my golf game more consistent and while I’ve played great golf over the last four to five years, I have struggled in the last six months. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of my career … I just have to rebuild my game, regain my confidence and have trust again.

“It’s time to prove what I can do. The top-10 in Korea was a good start and everyone knows I will play in many tournaments. I just need to bring my A-game out and choose the courses to my advantage. In the first two to three  months, I will play in as many events as I can. I also aim to play in the smaller events and try to find my first win on Tour, which will then make things a lot easier.”

Aphibarnrat relocated to Florida, close to LPGA stars Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn in Orlando, which he believes will be a benefit to himself and his wife, Tunyatorn. “I like it so far in the United States,” he said. “We’ve moved to the same compound as Ariya and Moriya and it feels more like home now. I wanted to be able to walk over to their house as they are like my sisters.”

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