March 29, 2019: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat battled to a 2 and 1 win over American Bryon DeChambeau on Thursday to keep alive his hopes at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.
After losing a closely-fought opening Group 6 match to Australian Marc Leishman on Wednesday, the 29-year-old Kiradech battled for his survival in the US$10.25 million showpiece at Austin Country Club to secure an important first point that will ensure his final group match against Russell Knox of Scotland remains relevant.
Leishman stayed in control of his own destiny after securing a second 2-up group win over Knox and needs a tie or a win against DeChambeau to progress into the knockout phase. If DeChambeau and Aphibarnrat each win on Friday, they will force a three-man playoff with Leishman to determine who progresses from the group.
Under blustery condition, Kiradech won six holes, five of which with pars and the highlight being an eagle two on the fifth hole where he drove the green and landed five feet of the flag to go 1-up in the match. DeChambeau, a five-time PGA TOUR winner, tied the match twice by winning holes 10 and 12 before Kiradech won successive holes at 13 and 14 which he then closed out DeChambeau on the 17th green.
“I don’t think we played our “A” game. Me and Bryson weren’t playing good golf. I think I just made one eagle the whole day. No birdies at all and a couple of bogeys. In match play, it just depends on the day, especially on this golf course which is really difficult. If you put the ball in the wrong position, sometimes it’s impossible to get up and down. Sometimes par is good enough to win,” said Kiradech.
“However, I’m really happy with the way we finished. I got the first point. I was really proud of the way I won the match. But there’s a lot of work that I need to do, and hopefully Bryson will play well tomorrow, and I’ll meet him in the playoff.”
Kiradech, who is the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card, is determined to fight to the end in his bid to replicate last year’s successful run where he qualified for the quarterfinals. With winds expected to make conditions tough again on Friday, he knows the key is to keep the ball in play.
“The key today was about hitting greens. The wind is really difficult and it’s not easy to hit it on the greens. You’ve got to keep the ball under the wind and give yourself more chances, hit it in the fairways, that is the big key for this week,” he said.
South Africa’s Justin Harding was defeated 3 and 2 by world number four Rory McIlroy but still stands an outside chance of advancing into the last 16. Harding needs to win his next match against Luke List and if McIlroy falls to Mathew Fitzpatrick, both Harding and McIlroy will head into a play-off to decide who goes through to the quarter finals.
As one in a series of four World Golf Championships events sanctioned and organized by the operational committee of the International Federation of PGA Tours, which includes the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is one of the most exciting and biggest events on golf’s calendar.