March 2018 – Asian Tour

Sharma ready for dream debut at Masters Tournament


Sentosa, Singapore, March 30: Indian star Shubhankar Sharma will finally realise his dream of playing at Augusta National when he makes his debut at the Masters Tournament next week. 

The 21-year-old is relishing the opportunity to make his first appearance in a Major championship after accepting an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament following his heroics at the WGC-Mexico Championship where he finished in tied ninth place.

As an aspiring golfer, Sharma recalled how he and his father woke up late at night to watch the Masters Tournament on television and remembering the layout of each hole at Augusta National.

“I think I’m suited for Augusta National. I actually know all the holes by heart. I can’t wait to get there and see if the holes look the same the way I see them on television and the way I played them in my mind over the years,” said Sharma.

“I know my best will be good enough to contend there. I’ll be heading there with confidence and I’ll have a lot of fun. It’ll be my first Major tournament and I’m really looking forward to it,” added the world number 68th.

Sharma has come a long way since starting his career on the Asian Tour in 2014. He burst onto the scene in December last year when he won the Joburg Open in South Africa with a 23-under-par winning total which included a 61 in the second round. He then followed up with another fantastic performance by winning the Maybank Championship in Malaysia in February after a closing 62.

He enjoyed a memorable debut at the WGC-Mexico Championship where he led in the second and third rounds and was praised by eventual winner Phil Mickelson, who played with the Indian in the final round.

Currently leading the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, Sharma hopes to continue his impressive streak.

“I’m really happy with what has happened to me so far. Obviously, the Asian Tour played a big role, as the Tour has given me the opportunity to compete and helped me develop my game to my current level. 

“It feels fantastic to see the hard work paying off. Things happened so fast for me. I won the Maybank Championship a month back. Now, I received an invitation to the Masters Tournament. A lot has happened since my win at the Joburg Open,” said Sharma.

The son of an Indian army colonel, Sharma was disappointed he did not take advantage of his two-shot lead heading into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship but the disappointment was swiftly erased when he received the Masters Tournament invitation.

“I was quite tough on myself throughout the flight back to India, as I didn’t finish the tournament the way I expect it, but as soon as I got the call, all the pain got washed away. I’m really happy to be able to play in the Masters Tournament. It’s every golfer’s dream to play in the Masters, and I’m no exception,” he said.

Sharma will become the fourth Indian player to compete in the Masters Tournament after Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahiri.

About the Asian Tour 

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.


March 29: Four time Major winner and 2019 Presidents Cup International Team Captain Ernie Els will headline the 2018 Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways to be played at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course from August 2 to 5.

Affectionately known as The Big Easy due to his fluid golf swing, Els, who is also an Asian Tour Honorary Member and International Ambassador, will be swinging easy on the course and taking it easy away from the course.

“I am delighted to be playing the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways. I have watched the TV coverage in the past and the beautiful golf course looks like an excellent challenge,” said Els.

“But I am also looking forward to visiting Fiji. As professional golfers we are very lucky to travel the world and Fiji is a place that I would like to explore once my work on the course is finished.”

Now in its fifth year, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways has attracted a long list of world class players to the tropical nation with Els the most recent addition.

“We are very excited to welcome Ernie Els to our beautiful country for the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways,” said The Honourable Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources.

“Having a player of Ernie’s calibre compete in the Fiji International demonstrates the tournaments’ standing on the international golf schedule.

“Ernie is highly respected in the golf world and having his tick of approval for the tournament will continue to enhance Fiji’s reputation as a world class golfing destination.”

Tri-sanctioned by the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, European Tour and Asian Tour; securing Ernie Els for the 2018 tournament further demonstrates the advantage of the three tours’ involvement.

“We are very pleased to welcome and host Ernie in Fiji. Ernie is an incredibly talented player with a long and storied history in golf, his participation in the tournament will ensure the world’s attention is on the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways throughout event week,” said Gavin Kirkman, CEO of the PGA of Australia which owns the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

“Each year we have attracted players from all over the world to Fiji but Ernie will be the first South African player to tee it up in the tournament.  South Africa is a strong golf playing nation, having Ernie in the field will showcase to South Africans the potential of Fiji as a golfing destination.”

About the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways

To be held from 2-5 August the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways will be played at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course which boasts breathtaking views of the Coral Coast and is home to the Natadola Beach Land Estate. 

Enticed by the tropical destination, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways has attracted some of the world’s best golfers since its inaugural staging in 2014 including Fijian hero and three time Major champion Vijay Singh, 2017 champion Jason Norris, 2016 champion Brandt Snedeker, 2015 champion Matt Kuchar, 2014 champion Steven Jeffress, Steven Bowditch, Boo Weekley, Nick Price, Robert Allenby, Heath Slocum, Liang Wenchong, and Anirban Lahiri.

In 2018, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways continues to have a global presence confirming its position as an integral tournament in the South Pacific region, with the tournament being tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

A Pacific paradise, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways also boasts some of the most unique hospitality options in world golf with the par-3 8th hole providing the perfect vantage point to watch the golf, whilst socialising on the beach.

More than just a golf tournament, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways aims to leave a lasting legacy for golf in the Pacific region, with the PGA of Australia supporting initiatives to introduce and grow the game in Fiji.

Owned by the PGA of Australia and SEL, the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways is proudly supported by the Fijian Government, Tourism Fiji and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa as the official resort of the tournament.

About the Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.


Beijing, March 29: China’s Changping Chen held on to his overnight lead to claim first place at the Volvo China Open Qualifying event in Kunming on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old Chen, who fired a second-round one-under-par 71 to take the top spot, as well as compatriots Shaocai He (70) and Xu Wang (72), secured their spots at the RMB 20 million (approximately US$3.15 million) Volvo China Open which gets underway at the Topwin Golf and Country Club from April 26 to 29.

Born in Yunnan, Chen majored in basketball while he attended university but switched to playing golf in 2009 when he could not compete with the traditionally lofty basketball players because of his height. He lived in Yunnan for 20 years before moving away and settling in Chongqing because of better weather conditions to play golf.

“I’m lucky to be able to qualify for the Volvo China Open in my home province. I have two tournaments to play before the Volvo Open, so I hope my good form continues all the way to Beijing. Golf is a sport that toughens my mind and brings me the inner peace to tolerate the unfair things that occur in daily life, which is why I enjoy playing." said Chen, who has two daughters aged five and two.

The 36-year-old He, who is born in Kunming, has won five out of the seven times he played in Volvo Open Qualifiers, was calm and collected when he approached the final round of the qualifying event, held at the demanding golf course designed by Phil Mickelson.

“My goal is to make the weekend rounds in Beijing this year since I have not managed to do so in previous years. My biggest challenge at the Topwin will be with the driver as the course is very long and obviously favours the longer hitters," said He. 

The third and final spot went to 35-year-old Wang, who had qualified for the tournament three times before, and managed again this year after a nail-biting two-hole play-off. 

“I’m delighted to qualify this time as the Volvo China Open is once again taking place in my hometown of Beijing,” said Wang.

“I am very familiar with the course at Topwin and I hope to make the cut this year in front of the supportive local crowd. I have noticed a lot more teenagers and amateurs competing in the Volvo China Open Qualifiers, which makes me very optimistic about the future of golf in China. I gave up the opportunity to play in another tournament this week as I wanted to play in my National Open, so I am happy to have accomplished my mission," added Wang.

With the conclusion of the Kunming Jialize Qualifying, all four of this year’s Volvo China Open Qualifying events have been completed. Apart from Chen, He and Wang, nine other qualifiers have won a place in the 24th Volvo China Open which will be played at Beijing’s Topwin Golf and Country Club next month. They are Lien Lu-Sen of Chinese Taipei, John Michael O’Toole and Blake Snyder of the United States as well as Chinese golfers Dongyu Wang, Zeyu He, Jianfeng Ye, Zheng Ouyang, Chun Liu and amateur Peicheng Chen.

For more information please visit www.volvochinaopen.com

Ends.


Osaka, Japan, March 28: The action on the Asian Tour is set to resume when the region’s best players head to Osaka for the Panasonic Open Championship next month. 

The Panasonic Open Championship is also the concluding leg of the Panasonic swing where the top-three finishers in the final ranking will earn US$70,000, US$50,000 and US$30,000 respectively via a bonus pool reward scheme.

India’s Shiv Kapur currently leads the Panasonic Swing which is based on an aggregate points ranking earned by players at the following five tournaments- 2017 Thailand Open, 2017 Panasonic Open India, 2018 Maybank Championship (Malaysia), 2017 Indonesian Masters and 2018 Panasonic Open Championship.

A minimum of two events are required to be played inclusive of the Panasonic Open Championship in order to qualify for the Panasonic Swing bonus pool. There will be a x1.5 multiplier for points earned at the Panasonic Open Championship.

Having won the Panasonic Open India in emotional fashion on his home course in India last year, Kapur is hoping to repeat his magic at the Ibrakai Country Club (West course) where no less than 30 Asian Tour winners are expected to feature at the Panasonic Open Championship which is the third event to be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) this year.

“Winning in India last year and getting the monkey off my back is nice. Now, I can free-wheel a bit more rather than having this pressure of not having won a tournament for a long time.

“My form is pretty good. I managed to put myself in contention in Singapore and Malaysia, but I didn’t get the job done over the weekend. I’m glad to be able to ride on the momentum of winning three times in 2017,”said Kapur.

The Indian earned the distinction of being the only player to have won three times during the 2017 season and is highly rated as one of the contenders along with Australia’s Scott Hend, 2016 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion and American Paul Peterson, who is currently fourth on the Habitat for Humanity standings. 

“You have to keep expectations in check. My goal this year is to try to be a better golfer in 2018 compared to last year. If I feel that I’m improving my game and contending regularly, my goals are achieved even if I have no wins,” said the Indian.

All eyes will also be on the Japanese field that will be spearheaded by Yusaku Miyazato and Satoshi Kodaira, who finished first and second respectively on the JGTO money list in 2017, and Ryo Ishikawa, who was the youngest golfer to break into the world’s top-50 in 2009.

Panasonic Corporation which has supported the Olympic Games as an official worldwide partner for over 25 years, has also backed professional golf at the highest level in Asia through its title sponsorship of the Panasonic OPEN India since 2011 and the Panasonic Open Championship.

Ends.


Singapore, March 27: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat will head to the Masters Tournament next week in fine form following superb performances on the world stage in the last two months.

Since February, the immensely popular Thai has won the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth and accepted an invitation from a prince to play on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) where he dominated the Richard Mille Brunei Championships.

In his two appearances at the World Golf Championships, Kiradech secured tied fifth results at the WGC-Mexico Championships and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last week where he was beaten by eventual winner Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

His result in Texas moved him to a career-high of 29th position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), just one rung  from equalling Thongchai Jaidee’s best world ranking position of 28th which he achieved in 2015, the highest recorded by a Thai

Kiradech, the 2013 Asian Tour number one, stormed into the spotlight with his battling performances in 2018 but it was in 2017 where the Thai produced a gutsy display of golf to move into the world’s top 50 in just four months.

He was ranked 160th in the world in September and thanks to two runner-up finishes and a victory at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation on the ADT, it gave Kiradech a fighting chance at the Asian Tour’s season-ending Indonesian Masters to break into the top-50.

Battling through a back injury, Kiradech needed a top-five result in the event and he did so in sensational style when he eagled the last hole to attain his goal and eventually finished 49th on the final 2017 OWGR to qualify for The Masters on his own merit.

“The way I fought to qualify for The Masters is amazing. Now I want to show the world an Asian can surprise and contend in a Major,” said Kiradech.

The last two months is testament that Kiradech’s career is trending in the right direction ahead of his second appearance at the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. He finished a credible tied 15th in his Masters debut in 2016 which is his best result in a Major so far.

“I’ve been comfortable with the way I’ve been playing. I’m feeling very confident and I’ve putted very well lately. I look forward to playing in Augusta. I will try to go earlier and try and feel comfortable on the greens,” said Kiradech.

He will be joined by first-timer Shubhankar Sharma of India, who leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Sharma and Kiradech have enjoyed a fine run so far which they hope to continue at The Masters and beyond.

“I’m so happy that I’m now inside the top-30 in the world. The goal now is to try and stay inside the top-30 and hopefully earn a PGA Tour card. I will give it my best at The Masters because I have such good memories there.

“Augusta is a golf course which suits my game and I’ve been playing very well so hopefully it will be another week which I will remember,” said Kiradech.

About the Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

Please visit us at:

www.asiantour.com

www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf

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Beijing, March 26: The 24th edition of the Volvo China Open, tri-sanctioned by the China Golf Association, European Tour and the Asian Tour, will offer a total prize money of CNY 20 million (approximately US$3,150,000) when it gets underway at the Beijing Huairou Topwin Golf and Country Club from April 26 to 29.

Mr. Zhang Xiaoning, President of China Golf Association, affirmed the new developments for 2018. He said: “As China’s longest-running international professional golf tournament, the Volvo China Open is now entering its 24th year and is well-established as one of China’s and the world’s highest-level golf events as well as being a flagship tournament of the China Golf Association.

"We are happy to see this year’s Volvo China Open return for the third successive year to Topwin Golf and Country Club, where Haotong Li won in 2016 and began his incredible journey on the European Tour. This year we will see many top players from the European and Asian Tours and I wish them all good luck and hope that Chinese players will be able to stand out and bring honor to the country," said Mr. Zhang.

"Special thanks also to Volvo for its long-term contribution to China golf, which played the key role in popularizing the game and improving the level of players in China," he added.

A star-studded line-up will come together for the 2018 Volvo China Open, including defending champion Alex Levy of France, six-time European Tour winner Joost Luiten from the Netherlands and Austrian four-time winner Bernd Wiesberger.

With the Asian Tour also co-sanctioning the event, there will be a strong challenge from Asia, including Thailand’s number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat, as well as current Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings leader and European Tour Race to Dubai ranking number one Shubhankar Sharma of India.

They will join the local elites spearheaded by current World Number 38 Haotong Li and 2015 Volvo China Open winner Ashun Wu for a battle to be played out at the Ian Woosnam-designed course located in the shadow of China’s Great Wall.

With the 24th edition of the Volvo China Open coming to Topwin Golf & Country Club for the third consecutive year, the club ties the record for hosting the Volvo China Open on the most occasions in the Northern China area.

"Having the club selected for a third straight year is not only testimony to the quality of the course and the professionalism of the club, it is also yet another boost for Beijing Huairou district and the further development of its tourism economy," said Mr. Shi Lin, Chairman of Topwin Group.

"Compared with the ‘strong return to Beijing’ in 2016 and ‘revisiting’ in 2017, the ‘third time handshake’ is more significant. In the past two years of the Volvo China Open, top players from around the world have put on a great show for the spectators and TV audiences and enhanced the attention and popularity of the Topwin Club.

"This year, we will benefit from the previous events and again showcase the first-class features and status of Topwin Golf and Country Club, while aiming to provide an even better experience for all players and spectators.”

The 2018 edition of the Volvo China Open will also see the introduction of Mitime Group as the new co-promoter for the event. Mitime Group is wholly owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group which is also the owner of Volvo Cars. Mr. Wang Xinggui, Chairman of Mitime Group said: "We are delighted that Mitime Group can be a part of the Volvo China Open and our subsidiary company Mitime Golf become the co-promoter of the longest-running National Golf Open of China. Our thanks go to the China Golf Association and Volvo for their recognition and support. We will strive to further establish the event as a top-class professional tournament brand and in turn promote the development of golf in China."

Mr. Sven De Smet, Chairman of the Volvo China Open Board added: "As the Volvo China Open enters its 24th year, the continuous investment clearly demonstrates Volvo’s confidence and commitment to China and to golf.

“We are delighted to see that under the guidance of the China Golf Association, Chinese players have made amazing progress in international tournaments. Volvo is very happy to be able to create a platform for Chinese players to step onto the world stage and to help further develop China golf.

"The brand philosophy of Volvo fits perfectly with golf’s concept and it is expected, that through the Volvo China Open, Volvo will have a closer connection with the elite class in China.

"In one month’s time, the event will return back to Beijing Huairou Topwin Golf and Country Club for the third time. We appreciate the gracious assistance from Topwin and we believe the players from the European Tour and Asian Tour will put on another great competition for a global audience,” said Mr. Sven De Smet.

Ends.

About Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

Please visit us at:

www.asiantour.com

www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf

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March 25: Kiradech Aphibarnrat produced a gutsy display at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play before losing in the quarterfinals to Bubba Watson on Saturday.

The Thai star qualified for the knockout stages after being unbeaten in the group stage. He had to fight tooth-and-nail in the round of 16 where he sank clutch birdies in the final two holes to win 1-up against Charles Howell III in a pulsating match.

Kiradech, the 2013 Asian Tour number one, then faced a dominant Watson in the quarterfinals where he was beaten 5&3.

Both players started strong, combining for seven birdies in the first six holes. That match was all square at the turn but things started to change for Kiradech when he bogeyed 10. Another two bogeys by the Thai followed by two Watson birdies during a four-hole stretch on the back nine proved to be the difference. 

Wins on holes 10, 11, 12 and 13 suddenly saw Watson go 4-up against Kiradech . On 15, Watson hit his approach to nine feet where the Thai eventually conceded the hole and the match.

Kiradech will take next week off before heading to Augusta National for the year’s opening major, the Masters Tournament.

Ends.

 

  


March 24: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat made it three wins in a row by defeating world number three Jon Rahm of Spain 4&3 to set up an epic clash with American Charles Howell III at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play on Friday.

The Thai star has won all three of his group matches and is the only one of seven players in the 64-man field to achieve a 100% record at Austin Country Club.

Kiradech got the upper hand over Rahm early when he went 3-up at the turn over last year’s runner-up.

The 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion then sank a 20-foot birdie putt on 14 to go 4-up and closed out the match at the next hole with a par to qualify for the round of 16  for the first time.

“I just kept the ball in play. To be honest, I don’t think Jon was playing his best game. I know it’s not the best day for him. So, it’s all about friendship here. I’m playing great golf. And a lot of confidence, comfortable with the swing,” said Kiradech, who finished tied fifth at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship earlier this month.

Kiradech proved he was also able to compete under testing conditions, showing grit amid windy conditions.

“When the wind picks up, it’s really tough. I think some greens, they put some water on it, so it makes easier for the players,” said Kiradech, who notched earlier wins over Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley.

Kiradech is beginning to establish himself as somewhat of a match play expert as he won the 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play on the European Tour and also the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth last month which used a six-hole match play format on the last day.

In other matches, India’s Shubhankar Sharma lost 1-up to South African Dylan Frittelli, while China’s Haotong Li lost 3 & 2 to Charl Schwartzel and Japan’s Yuta Ikeda halved his match with Zach Johnson.

All of them failed to progress beyond the group stage.

Ends


Austin, United States, March 23: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat continued his impressive run at the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play by defeating American Keegan Bradley 1-up to win his second consecutive match at the Austin Country Club on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Kiradech, Asia’s number one in 2013, won his opening match 3&2 against Chez Reavie of the United States and needs only a win or half in his last group match against Jon Rahm of Spain to qualify for the knock-out rounds for the first time in his career.

Kiradech, who went 2-up against Bradley with two birdies in his opening three holes, battled tooth and nail against Bradley coming down the stretch before he sunk a crucial 12-foot birdie putt on the 18 to remain unbeaten in the Match Play event.

“I’m really proud with the way I putted on the last hole. I was just trying to control myself, stay calm, and play shot by shot all day. It was the first time I played the 17th and 18th holes in the event so I am happy with how things turned out. The last putt took quite a bit of pressure off me.

“I have been playing good golf. I have been really comfortable with my swing for the last couple of months. I think playing in Match Play really suits my game. I won a Match Play event in Perth last month. I just need to keep playing my own game, pay attention and keep calm,” said the big-hitting Thai.

Kiradech won his third Asian Tour title at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth last month and claimed his third victory on the Asian Development Tour in Brunei a fortnight ago. He is currently in 32nd place on the Official World Golf Ranking and is the highest-ranked player from Thailand. He had also won the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in 2015.

“Match play is something you have to go for it. Sometimes you have to back off. It depends. This course is in a fantastic shape and it’s a perfect venue for the match play. You can make a couple of birdies but you can also make a lot of bogeys as well. It just all depends on your game plan,” Kiradech added.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who leads the current Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, unfortunately lost his match 3&1 against American Xander Schauffele while American Matt Kucher clinched a 1-up victory over Japan’s Yuta Ikeda.

Kiradech, Sharma and Ikeda will be up against Rahm, Dylan Frittelli and Zach Johnson respectively in the third round of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The top performer from each group will make it into the round of 16 on Saturday.

Ends.


Austin, United States, March 21: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat continued his hot match play streak as he defeated Chez Reavie of the United States 3&2 in the first round of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event on Wednesday.

Kiradech, the champion at this year’s ISPS HANDA Super 6 Perth that featured a six-hole match play elimination format, won comfortably in a match that he never trailed. He made his fourth birdie of the match at the 16th hole of the Austin Country Club while Reavie only managed a par, putting the result beyond doubt. The 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion won the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in 2015.

“In match play, all you have to do is play better than your competitor. I was able to keep myself in a better position. I was never behind all day. Whether it is all square, 1-up, all square, 1-up, 2-up, or whatever, I will just keep myself in a good position and put a lot of pressure on my opponent,” said Kiradech.


Shubhankar Sharma of India

Shubhankar Sharma put 2017 Masters Tournament and this year’s SMBC Singapore Open champion Sergio Garcia to the sword, but the rising Indian star eventually lost 1-down. The rising Indian star fought back from being 2-down early in the match to lead 1-up at the turn. However, the Spaniard turned on the afterburners, as he birdied five out of last eight holes to win the match narrowly. It was Sharma’s maiden appearance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. 

Yuta Ikeda of Japan caused a minor upset as he beat Ross Fisher of England 2&1. Ikeda, who represented Team Asia at this year’s EurAsia Cup, recovered from being 2-down through five holes with a steady performance on the back nine. Ikeda is seeded 47th in the tournament, while Fisher is seeded 27th.

The 64-player WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play field is divided into 16 four-player groups. Each group will play round-robin matches within their group on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Kiradech, Sharma and Ikeda will be up against Keegan Bradley, Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar respectively in round two of the event.

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