This week’s US$1.5 million International Series Morocco is a giant step forward for the Asian Tour as it visits North Africa for the first time, but it is also marks the return of one of the giants of the Tour, Thailand’s ultra-talented golf star Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
The former Asian Tour number one has not competed on the circuit since 2019, choosing to focus on the PGA Tour, but he returns to his home Tour on Thursday when he tees-off at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
And the four-time Asian Tour winner is in confident mood at the famous venue, which hosted The Hassan II Golf Trophy for four decades.
“My form is excellent,” said the Thai, winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2013.
“I am playing with confidence and playing solid golf, and I’m very comfortable playing with my friends and feeling I am back where I belong, it is my first time on the Asian Tour for a long time.”
The 33 year old rose up through the ranks on the Asian Tour after turning professional 14 years ago – with his most recent victory coming in the ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Perth in 2018.
In June that year he also became the first Thai golfer to earn a card on the PGA Tour, although he has since lost his playing privileges there.
He said: “I haven’t been on the Asian Tour for a while, but I have been keeping an eye on it and it has been going from strength to strength so hopefully I can return with a win for myself, my friends on tour and my friends back home.”
The last time he competed on the Asian Tour was at the Thailand Masters in December 2019 and he returns at a time when the circuit is booming, helped by the introduction of the ground-breaking International Series events, launched earlier this year thanks to LIV Golf.
On the International Series, he said: “It is great, it gives a great opportunity to the new generation, there are a lot of younger players and a lot of new stars of the game and the International Series is helping them to build their careers and judging by the new players, I think the Asian Tour is doing things the right way.”
And, of course, this week gives him a great opportunity to meet the many friends he made on the Asian Tour over the past 10 plus years.
“I got here yesterday and first thing I did was spent a lot of time with Prom (Meesawat) and some other Thai players and it hit me that it was nearly 15 years ago, the first time we came out on tour and how we played together and went out on tour together,” he said.
“We had a lot of chat, talking about the past and the old times, and I think so far this is the happiest week in the past few years, I am at my happiest and enjoying it so far.”
The first of his Asian Tour victories came at the Sail Open in 2011 and as he looks to once again cross the fine line at the top between mediocrity and stardom the International Series Morocco is in his crosshairs.