Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat is set to defend his title at the Butra Heidelberg Cement Brunei Championship, which will celebrate its second straight edition on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) next week.
The 29-year-old Kiradech, the highest-ranked Thai in 41st place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), will headline a cosmopolitan field of 144 players from over 20 countries at the highly-rated Empire Golf and Country Club from April 24 to 27 (Wednesday to Saturday).
The popular event, which offers an increased prize purse of US$75,000 this year, will feature more than 26 ADT champions including Argentina’s Miguel Carballo, Japan’s Kazuki Higa, American Sam Gillis and Wang Wei-lun of Chinese Taipei.
Kiradech, the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, underlined his star credentials when he dominated a talented field at the inaugural edition last year, completing a wire-to-wire victory to win by six shots.
“Winning last year was huge for me, it gave me a boost in confidence before I went back to play in the United States. I treat every tournament the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small event,” said Kiradech.
Kiradech’s victory in Brunei, which marked his third title on the ADT, came a week after he finished tied-fifth at the 2018 World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship. He would go on to cap another top-five finish two weeks later at the WGC- Dell Technologies Match Play.
The big-hitting Thai then wrote a slice of history by becoming the first Thai golfer to earn playing rights on the PGA TOUR for the 2018/2019 season, thanks to his noteworthy performances which also include a tied-13th place finish at the Memorial Tournament, a tied-30th result at THE PLAYERS Championship and a 15th place finish at the U.S. Open.
Kiradech, a three-time Asian Tour winner and four-time European Tour champion, enjoyed a tied-49th place finish when he made his third appearance at The Masters tournament last week.
“From playing the Masters, one of the biggest events in the world, to playing on the ADT, it feels the same to me as I still try and win every single time I tee up for an event.
“I am excited to be going back to Brunei to defend my title. My good friend Prom (Meesawat) is also playing in the event and I know he won’t make it easy for me,” added Kiradech.
ADT Order of Merit champion Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who won the season-opener on home soil earlier in January, is ready for another shot at the event, where he played alongside Kiradech in the final round last year before settling for a third-place result.
“I was honoured to have the opportunity to play with Kiradech in the final round last year. Watching him play helped me realised what I needed to work on if I want to be the best. I have been working hard on my weaknesses since then,” said Itthipat, who ended a three-year title drought when he won his third ADT title three months ago.
The leading seven players on the final ADT Order of Merit will earn playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2020 season.
All ADT events offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. The winner will receive at least six OWGR points while the top six players and ties will also earn points based on a sliding scale.