May 09, 2018: Rising Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat has the golf game to succeed on the PGA TOUR, says renowned swing coach Pete Cowen.
As world No. 32 Kiradech prepares to challenge the world’s best at THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament which starts on Thursday, Cowen believes the big-hitting Thai will thrive on the world’s premier tour when he eventually earns his playing rights in the United States.
“He can shoot very low and that’s what you need to do around here. You can play well and miss every cut as the cuts are so tight. The depth and quality of play here is massive. You see every week there are 50 players within three shots, it’s unbelievable,” said Cowen, who with Mike Walker, has helped Kiradech reach a career high on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Cowen, who has worked with past PLAYERS Champions and major winners Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, likes what he sees in Kiradech after starting work with the Thai since the beginning of last year. “He’s done everything well. He’s happy as it’s the highest he’s been on the world ranking and he wants it. You can see that. I like that he shapes a lot of shots, he loves the draw shots but his best shot is probably the fade,” said Cowen.
“We’re leaving all the natural good stuff in there and we’ve had to make sure his body position is right for his delivery as he (swing) gets really quick which is great if you get into the right positions. All we can do with anybody’s golf swing is narrow the deviation and avoid the big misses and ensure the swing path is a lot more neutral and then you can use your body to shape the shots,” said Cowen.
Kiradech’s fine run this year has seen him produce top-five finishes at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, which has left him on the verge of earning Special Temporary Membership with the PGA TOUR. This will allow him unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the season and if he finishes inside the top-125 of the FedExCup points standing, he will become the first Thai to earn a PGA TOUR card.
The 28-year-old is feeling confident as he prepares for his second appearance at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass after missing the cut in 2016 through rounds of 75 and 69.
“Looking back at the WGCs, I’ve shown I can knock on the door in those big events and at the majors, I’m making more cuts. This week feels like a major event and I’m looking forward to challenging. If I can keep up my form, I don’t think the trophy is far away from me,” said Kiradech.
“To be here is a great honour, it’s one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, maybe the fifth major. It’s not easy to get into this field … you’ve got to be top-50 in the world or have full PGA TOUR status. All the top-50 players in the world are here and if I have my A-game, I’m not far away.”
He played the front nine at TPC Sawgrass in practice on Tuesday before spending time working with Cowen and Walker on the range, focusing on his iron play. Kiradech, a lover of fast cars, hopes to get his foot on the pedal from the get-go in the first round.
“TPC Sawgrass is in awesome condition, it’s in fantastic shape. The greens are firm and fast, and it’s narrow out there. The winds were up today which make it hard but I’m still confident. You have to move the ball around on this course and I love a challenging course, especially against a top field.