Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat has tossed aside his 11-year-old putter in hope that a “new weapon” in the bag will turn his golf fortunes around when he tees up at the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas this week.
The 32-year-old is languishing in 211th position on the FedExCup standings with the PGA TOUR entering the business end of the 2021-22 season where the top-125 players qualify for the lucrative Play-offs, and more importantly retain their TOUR cards.
“This week is a little different. I’ve stuck to my same putter the last 11 years but this week, I’ve got a brand new weapon to play with,” said Kiradech.
The Asian golf star, who featured regularly in the world’s top-50 previously, has endured a lean patch of form, with his last top-10 on the PGA TOUR being in October 2019. Making five cuts in his last six starts has given him a sense of optimism as he continues to plot a long-awaited comeback.
“I’ve picked up some confidence and have a much better golf swing, movement, ball striking. A lot of cuts made but I need to get everything on at the same time. Putting is not working well as I drop a few strokes in every round by missing short putts,” said Kiradech, who ranks a lowly 195th in the Strokes Gained: Putting stat this season where he has lost 0.54 strokes to the field.
“I’m working hard to get every part of my game stronger. It feels like the putting is now my problem. I just need to bring back what I used to do for good results.”
This will be Kiradech’s fourth start at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which was won by Korea’s K.H. Lee last season. The Thai finished tied fifth in the tournament in 2019, although it was played at a different venue then. It was also one of three top-10s during the 2018-19 season in which he finished a career best 67th on the FedExCup standings.
“It will depend on how I swing the club, how I bring up my ‘A’ game this week. I’ve not been playing as good in the last few years but my ball striking is coming back the last couple of weeks. I hope everything comes back at the same time this week,” he said.
Kiradech revealed recently that his father had advised him to simply enjoy competing on the PGA TOUR, or quit TOUR life if he wasn’t happy to go through the grind and rigours of professional golf at the highest level.
“I think every player goes through tough years, once or twice. Last year was a tough one for me,” said Kiradech, who needed to play on the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to regain his PGA TOUR status last season.
“I just want to enjoy every single minute I have on the PGA TOUR. As the first Thai player to make it on TOUR, I might not be the one who have success on this TOUR and it might be the next generation. I just do the best on my part and open up for other Thai kids who look forward to being on the PGA TOUR.
“I will try to get myself back into the top-125. If not, I will let this go. I’ve spent five years on PGA TOUR and may have to go back to spend time with family, and enjoying this game more. The PGA TOUR is one of the toughest in the world … all the best players are in the field, 10 to 20 new players come up every year and the course is getting longer. No doubt it’s the most difficult and biggest TOUR in the world.”