KUALA LUMPUR: India’s veteran golf star Arjun Atwal predicts his partnership with Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will see them producing “awesome golf” as the duo seek to surprise the luminaries gathered at TPC Louisiana.
This week’s US$7.4mil (RM30.49mil) US PGA Tour showpiece sees 80 two-man teams slugging it out under a different format with four-ball being used in the first and third rounds and foursomes (alternate shot) in the second and final rounds.
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer will defend the title they won in 2019 (there was no event last year due to Covid-19). The other top contenders are Xander Schauffele-Patrick Cantlay, Matt Wolff-Collin Morikawa, Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman-Cameron Smith, Tony Finau-Cameron Champ and Im Sung-jae-An Byeong-hun.
Arjun, India’s first winner on the PGA Tour, was happy to be picked by Kiradech.
Both are former Asian No. 1s and have won a combined seven European Tour titles between them with three being the Malaysian Open.
Arjun won the 2003 edition at the Mines Golf and Country Club before repeating the feat five years later at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club, while Kiradech emerged triumphant at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Country Club in 2013.
“There’s nothing to not like about Kiradech. He’s such a cool guy, and he’s laid-back just like me, ” said the 48-year-old Arjun.
“We recently played a few rounds together and I realised how similar his game is to mine, at least during my peak. I know he’s struggled a little bit over the last few weeks but I think he’s found his form and I think you’ll be seeing some awesome golf from us.”
Kiradech has failed to find his best form for nearly two years now, missing six cuts in 10 starts in the current season which have left him in danger of losing his PGA Tour card. The 31-year-old hopes that partnering one of Asia’s golf legends will provide the missing spark.
“The reason why I picked Arjun is because he’s one of the best Asian players ever. He’s won on the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGA Tour and there’s no doubt in my mind why I picked him.
“He’s also such a nice guy, a very positive guy and I’m looking forward to playing alongside him. We’re very comfortable with each other and I’m sure we’re going to have lots of fun.”
Both Asian stars are competing for the first time in the tournament under this new team format, although Kiradech will lean on his more experienced partner who finished fifth at TPC Louisiana in 2005 when it was played as an individual strokeplay event.
“I’ve had some success on this golf course. I was leading and had a mishap in the third round but I like the course and I’m loving it as I get to play with Kiradech, ” said Arjun.
“I asked Kiradech if he was interested in partnering and he said ‘yes’ as he thinks I’m the good luck charm.”