Inspired by a recent pep talk with his father, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat fought his way up the leaderboard with a fine 5-under 66 in the second round of the US$7.3 million Mexico Open at Vindata on Friday.
The burly Thai was in danger of missing the cut after an opening 70, which featured a career first ace on the PGA TOUR on Thursday, but he equaled his lowest score of the season following six birdies against a lone bogey to climb from T61 to T18 entering the weekend at Vindata Vallarta.
India’s Anirban Lahiri was the other big mover after carding a solid 68 to join Kiradech in a share of 18th place, and they were joined by Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira (69) and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan (70). The quartet are six shots behind leader and World No. 2, Jon Rahm of Spain.
“My dad (Panupong) was telling me to enjoy this game, enjoy working,” said Kiradech, who is the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card. “If I’m not happy with what I’m doing and not enjoying playing golf, then I should just quit. That’s what my dad was saying to me.”
It has proven to be a timely wake-up call for Kiradech, once ranked in the world’s top-50 before enduring a dip in form with his last top-10 on the PGA TOUR being in October, 2019.
Starting from the 10th, the 32-year-old Thai, who holds four wins on the DP World Tour, got off to a solid start with a 13-foot birdie at the par-five 12th. He carded two more birdies on 15 and 18 to turn in 33 before being pegged back by a bogey on the par-four third hole. The setback did little to dampen his spirit as he picked up three shots in succession, starting with a superb chip-in birdie at the par-three fifth, the very same hole he accomplished his maiden hole-in-one on Thursday.
Kiradech was delighted to have rediscovered his form as he seeks a strong weekend to boost his hopes of keeping his PGA TOUR card with a top-125 finish in the FedExCup ranking.
“I am really pleased with my day. This is probably one of my best rounds in a long while and I’m happy that the hard work I’ve put in is slowly showing some results,” said Kiradech, who is currently 211th on the ranking.
“I keep saying it takes only one week to turn things around and hopefully I can keep making good progress and become more consistent to shoot good scores over four days. Looking forward to the weekend and try to do the same thing which is hit fairways and greens here and hole some putts.”
Anirban, meanwhile, converted a 24-foot birdie putt at the last to keep his hopes afloat of another strong finish after coming close with a brilliant runner-up finish at the PLAYERS Championship last month.
Rahm, pursuing his first victory since winning last year’s U.S. Open, fired a 66 to break away from the congested leaderboard and opened up a two-shot lead over second-placed Alex Smalley.
Second-Round Notes – Friday, April 29, 2022
Weather: Sunny. High of 84. Wind SW 8-16 mph, increasing in the afternoon with gusts to 32 mph.
36-hole cut: 74 players at 2-under 140 from a field of 141 professionals and three amateurs
Jon Rahm 64-66—130 (-12)
Alex Smalley 66-66—132 (-10)
Adam Long 67-66—133 (-9)
Andrew Novak 66-67—133 (-9)
Cameron Champ 67-66—133 (-9)
Patrick Reed 67-66—133 (-9)
Trey Mullinax 64-69—133 (-9)
Brandon Hagy 66-67—133 (-9)
Leading Asian Scores
Anirban Lahiri 68-68 – 136 (-6, T18)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 70-66 – 136 (-6, T18)
Satoshi Kodaira 66-69 – 136 (-6, T18)
C.T. Pan 66-70 – 136 (-6, T18)