Shah Alam, Malaysia, November 16: Big-hitting Kiradech Aphibarnrat is itching to earn his place in Team Asia to face Europe in the second edition of the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM from January 15-17.
The world number 40, who has enjoyed two victories this season, recalls with great fondness the thrilling fightback by the Asians who forced an improbable 10-10 draw with Europe at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club last year.
“Hopefully I will qualify for the team. I’m looking forward to it,” said the 26-year-old, who was the Asian Tour number one in 2013.
Europe dominated the opening Fourball session by winning all five matches in 2014 before Asia, led then by playing captain Thongchai Jaidee, launched a fightback by winning the Foursomes session 3-2 and then rallying in the Singles session by winning seven points from the available 10 on the final day.
“If you look back at the first edition, it was unbelievable that we could come back but we made it happen. It was like a miracle. We showed we were strong and we fought back well,” said Kiradech.
“It’s not easy to beat the European players but we managed to do it (on the second and third days.”
Kiradech said the inaugural showdown, dubbed the Ryder Cup of the East, proved to be a huge success as it signaled Asia’s stature in the game but added it also impacted his own game positively.
“It gave me a lot of experience. I learned a lot by playing in the EurAsia Cup as it was a team event and the pressure was different. The pressure that I had in the last day singles was so much more than I’ve ever felt playing in any other stroke play event. That’s why I felt strong when I played and won the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in Scotland earlier this year,” said Kiradech.
“If you look at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, you don’t see the teams sharing the trophy. But in the EurAsia Cup, it’s a good memory that we shared the first trophy. The European team was strong but it wasn’t easy for them. We showed we too are strong enough to force a draw.”
The burly Thai, who has built an army of fans around the world with his grip it-and-rip it style of play, is poised to qualify for Team Asia via the Official World Golf Ranking. With India’s golf legend Jeev Milkha Singh captaining the side, Kiradech is eager to begin his 2016 campaign in Malaysia where he is a former Malaysian Open champion.
“In normal events, you play for yourself. You miss the putt, or miss the cut, it’s you who feel it. If you win, it’s for yourself. But in the team event, if you play good, you can impact the team and if you play bad, you can bring the team down. That’s why everybody tries their hardest to play well,” said Kiradech.
He said the draw helped Asian golf earn the respect from the international fraternity.
“Every one looked at the European team and saw that they were strong and the fans came out to support Europe. But after we showed that we are strong enough to play with them, a lot of people changed their mind,” said Kiradech.
“I think Jeev will be a very good captain and I’m looking forward to making the team again.”
The EurAsia Cup will feature 24 matches, with day one showcasing six Fourball matches, followed by six Foursomes matches and 12 Singles matches on the third day.
The winning team will share prize money of US$3.6 million while the runners-up will share US$1.2 million.
Team Asia will be selected as follows: the leading four available Asian players from the 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit as of December 14, the leading four eligible and available Asian players from the Official World Golf Ranking as of December 14, and four captain’s picks.
Team Europe will be selected as follows: the leading 10 available players from the final 2015 Race to Dubai rankings plus two captain’s picks.