This week making his maiden appearance at the US PGA Championship, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat impressed with a two under par 68 on Thursday to make early strides up the leaderboard at Oak Hill Country Club.
The 24 year old, who won his maiden European Tour event at the Maybank Malaysian Open in March, found four birdies in five holes from the ninth – with his only dropped shot of the day sandwiched between – to move inside the top 15 as the first day progressed in Rochester, New York.
Aphibarnrat made his Major Championship debut in The Open Championship at Muirfield last month, and after his first round he admitted the occasion had slightly overawed him – something he is determined to combat this week at Oak Hill.
“I just tried to play my best golf without having any target in mind,” said Aphibarnat, who missed the cut in East Lothian. “I was just trying to stick to my game plan of hitting lots of fairways and give myself a lot of chances to putt.
“The Open was tough and it’s the same here. I lost confidence really quickly (at Muirfield) after I made bogey on the first hole. This week I don't want to force myself too much.”
Aphibarnrat is nicknamed Asia's version of John Daly thanks to his larger than life persona and gung-ho approach on the golf course – an attitude that is seemingly earning the Bangkok native a fair few fans Stateside.
“I think I feel it a bit,” he said of the escalating support throughout his round at Oak Hill. “I think maybe it's from using the driver a lot, but I have quite enjoyed playing these two weeks in front of these crowds.”
Widely regarded as the most exciting player to be produced by Thailand since five-time European Tour champion Thongchai Jaidee, who is also at Oak Hill this week, Aphibarnrat was quick to praise the influence of his older compatriot as he continues his Major odyssey.
“I think we help each other,” he reflected. “But Thonchai certainly helps me a lot. He helps me practise and he has a lot of experience to teach me about this type of course. You have to be focused on the fairways and the long game is key on this layout.”