Asian stars set for Open Championship debuts

0
63

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Hideki Matsuyama, Daisuke Maruyama and Wu Ashun earned debuts at the Open Championship after the International Final Qualifying – Asia.

Thai rising star Kiradech topped the two-day qualifying with a flawless nine-under-par 63 while Japanese amateur Matsuyama, a two-time Asia Pacific Amateur Championship winner, finished four shots back following a 69 at the Amata Spring Country Club.

Another Japanese Maruyama and China’s Wu closed with a 65 and 68 respectively for tied third to clinch the final tickets to the Open Championship. Overnight leader Siddikur agonisingly missed out on the top-four spots after sending his tee shot into the water on the par three 17 for a double bogey.

Kiradech, nicknamed ‘Asia’s John Daly’ for his grip-it and rip-it style of play, turned in an impressive 30 and added three further birdies to join countrymen Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee at Muirfield from July 18 to 21.

“I’m glad I achieved my first dream in golf which is to play in a Major championship. I want to do my best at The Open. It will be the biggest challenge and event in my life,” said the 23-year-old, who totalled 13-under-par 131.

“I’ve definitely improved a lot while playing on the Asian Tour. I’ve gained a lot of experience through the years and earning an appearance in a Major show just how far my career has gone,” added Kiradech.

Highly rated Matsuyama, who dropped six shots in the last three holes last year, overcame a bogey on 16 and a double bogey on 17 with a birdie at the last to qualify for his first Open Championship. It will be his third appearance in a Major tournament after playing in The Masters in 2011 and 2012.

“I’m excited and happy because I made it. After 16 and 17, I told myself to calm down which I did. I’m glad with the way I handled myself out there. This is my first appearance at The Open and I can’t wait for it.

“I gained a lot of experience when I played in The Masters and it improved my game and maturity. I’m sure I’ll become even better after playing in The Open,” smiled the 21-year-old, who won one professional victory in Japan as an amateur.

Maruyama, a two-time Asian Tour winner, made an impressive charge up the leaderboard with a round of eight birdies and one bogey to qualify for his first ever Major championship.

“My goal was to shoot seven-under and I hit that target! I turn 42 soon and I told myself that I need to qualify for The Open before I hang up my clubs. I’m really proud with my achievement today,” said Maruyama, who turns 42 on March 16.

After dropping a double bogey on nine, Wu made a relentless homeward nine charge as he returned with four birdies to become the second Chinese player after Liang Wen-chong to play in the Open Championship.

“I played very well especially on my back nine. I’m very happy with my performance. Everybody wants to play in The Open including me. I told my coach last month that I dreamt of qualifying for The Open and it came true!” said Wu, who played on the Asian Tour in 2008 and 2009.