Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat is raring to get back into the thick of action after being given the go-ahead by the doctors to tee up at the 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.5 million) Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup which starts on Thursday.
A persistent knee injury robbed the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion of six weeks of competitive golf and it was one of the most frustrating periods for the Thai as he had to watch the action from his living room.
“I was getting bored at home and I just want to be out here again. I miss being in competition and being around my friends,” said Kiradech.
“Seeing Prom and Chapchai playing well and winning, made me want to play again. I felt sad that I couldn’t be there when Prom won in Taipei. I remembered Prom crying and walking over to give me a hug when I won my first title. I really wanted to be there for him when he won too,” said Kiradech.
His countrymen and friends from the Asian Tour may have dominated the headlines with their respective wins in recent weeks. But the two-time Asian Tour winner is hoping to match up to them and show his winning credentials again at the Ohtone Country Club.
“I watched the Omega European Masters on TV and I thought to myself that I should be there as well. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the Asian Tour. It was great to see David Lipsky win and I really hope to be back in the winner’s circle again,” said Kiradech.
Motivation for another impressive result does not come any bigger than this week’s Japanese showpiece which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
“My knee’s getting better. I can say it’s about 80% better now. I just want to get back into shape, play all four rounds without aggravating my injury. I’m confident I’ll be back to my very best soon,” said Kiradech.
Prom Meesawat, who ended his eight-year title drought in Chinese Taipei a fortnight ago, believes his close friend, Kiradech will be another strong contender if he plays true to form.
“Kiradech’s a good player. Even though he was out for six weeks due to his injury, I’m very sure he can make his comeback and play some very good golf again,” said Prom.
Of his own chances at this week’s Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup, Prom remains upbeat, helped no less by his recent victory.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time for that second win and now that it’s out of the way, I’m looking forward to extend my good form and go for that next win. There are many events lined-up on the Asian Tour from now till the end of the season and I’m hoping to get a good finish on the Order of Merit,” said Prom.
The Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup will feature over 35 tournament winners from the Asian Tour as well as the leading players from Japan.
They include home sensation Ryo Ishikawa as well as EurAsia Cup players Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara.
Other Asian Tour stalwarts set to light up at the Japanese showpiece include current Order of Merit leader David Lipsky, who became the first player from the Asian Tour to win the co-sanctioned Omega European Masters in Switzerland earlier this month.
China’s Liang Wen-chong and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng, who is an eight-time Asian Tour winner and four-time champion in Japan, will also be among the favourites to win the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup.
The Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup is one of the oldest tournaments in Japan dating back to 1969. Now known as the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup, the prestigious event has also been elevated to regional Open Championship status following an agreement between the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation and the Japan Golf Association.
The event continues to receive strong backing from Mitsubishi Corporation and Kansai Telecasting Corporation.
The Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup is owned by Mitsubishi Corporations, Kansai Telecasting Corporation, Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation and Japan Golf Association.