Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand vows to defend his Malaysian Open golf title in memory of his late coach, Natpasit Chokthanasart. - AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat hopes to preserve the memory of his late coach by putting on another winning performance in his title defence of the Maybank Malaysian Open from April 17-20.
The reigning Asian Tour number one will be aiming for a repeat victory against a star-studded field in the US$2.75mil (RM9.02mil) championship at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
The burly Thai will face strong challenges from former Malaysian Open champions Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Matteo Manassero and Thongchai Jaidee, the Asian captain at the recent EurAsia Cup, along with other stars from the Asian and European Tours.
Since winning the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit crown in 2013, Kiradech has yet to reproduce his best golf after losing his coach, Natpasit Chokthanasart, who passed away last December.
“After I lost my coach, my mental approach has been different and I have lost some confidence. I’ve been looking for a new coach with my manager but it isn’t easy because I had worked with Natpasit for such a long time,” said Kiradech.
However, he will attempt to ride on the euphoria of helping Team Asia share the inaugural EurAsia Cup with Team Europe after contributing 1½ points in the team’s stunning fightback last month.
Kiradech defeated Dane Thomas Bjorn 2 & 1 in the final day singles session which he hopes will be the catalyst to more victories in 2014. Asia fought back from 0-5 down on the first day to tie Europe 10-10.
“After the first day, finishing five-nil behind Team Europe, I didn’t expect that we were going to come back to share the trophy. Our team did a great job to fight back and to share the trophy is a good result. I’m just happy,” added Kiradech.
A return to the KLGCC will bring out the best from Kiradech after he defeated a host of stars in the 2013 edition.
“I have a lot of confidence playing at KLGCC. From the beginning of the year I haven’t found my best golf game and best week yet. I hope I can play well and defend my Malaysian Open title,” he said.
Kiradech said the KLGCC course is a long course with tight fairways and it suits his game due to the length.
It remains to be seen if he can reproduce the form that he showed last year and get his season off, up and running.