Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat fought swirly winds to settle for a level par 72 at the Masters Tournament on Friday where he will enter the weekend rounds just four shots off the lead.
The 29-year-old, who opened with a 69 on Thursday, traded three birdies against as many bogeys at Augusta National to end the second round in T16 with his two-day aggregate of 3-under 141, maintaining his perfect record at the year’s opening major where he has made the cut in three appearances.
Kiradech, the first Thai to play full-time on the PGA TOUR, produced some wonderful golf to keep himself on the fringe of contention but he also endured an injury scare after producing a gutsy recovery shot on 17.
A star-studded leaderboard sees PGA TOUR stars Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen sharing the halfway lead on 137, with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson amongst those lying just one back.
After an opening bogey on five, Kiradech drained a 16-foot birdie on seven and following another dropped shot on 11, the burly Thai responded brilliantly by nearly shooting a hole-in-one at the par-3 12th hole by sticking his tee shot next to the pin.
A third birdie of the round came at the par-5 13th hole from close range but he gave away the stroke straight back by flying the green with his approach on 14 after misjudging the wind. He needed to make a good par save from 10 feet on 16 to ensure he entered the clubhouse with a fighting 72.
“I played some good golf. The winds were everywhere and it’s very tricky and my putting wasn’t sharp. I had chances from around 10 feet, about three or four chances but overall even par on this course is acceptable,” said Kiradech, who finished T15 and T44 in 2016 and 2018 here.
Kiradech, who played alongside Japan’s Shugo Imahira and recent WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play champion Kevin Kisner, took some time to shake off pain in his right knee after tumbling onto the turf following a hooked approach shot around some pine trees on the 17th hole.
“I think I’ll be fine. I felt sharp pain on my right knee and I fell down. It took a few minutes to recover,” he said.