Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Getty Images)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat cannot wait to make his WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship debut, even though he faces a daunting first round match-up with top seed and reigning European Number One Henrik Stenson.
The Thai has developed a love for match play golf in his two appearances for Asia in the Royal Trophy, and he believes his go-for-broke style of play is well suited to the format.
Aphibarnrat is one of seven European Tour Members making their debut at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain this week, and he said: “I’m so proud of myself to be here for the first time and playing with the top 64 players in the world.
“It’s very special. I love to play match play golf and I have a lot of confidence with the format. Last year in the Royal Trophy, I won three points from three for the Asian team.
“I have a lot of distance and I make a lot of birdies. I attack the pin. In match play you can make a lot of birdies and you can afford to make mistakes.”
The 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open champion was the last man in the field at number 67 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and as a result faces Swede Stenson, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2007.
“Henrik is such a good player,” Aphibarnrat continued. “I played with him last year after he caught fire. I love to play with the top players, because in match play everything happens, you have nothing to lose. I'm happy whatever the result - whether I win or lose, I'm just happy to be here.”
Aphibarnrat might have been known in the golf world by another name, were it not for a decision nine years ago to change it in an attempt to improve his fortunes.
“In Thailand we believe in luck,” said the man formerly known as Anujit Hirunratanakorn. “When I was a kid with my old name I won a lot. But when I started to train, for the first year I had no success at all.
“My family and I went to a temple in northern Thailand to change our name. We believe if you have the right letters, you get more luck. After I changed my name I had more luck.”
Thirty-three European Tour Members will feature in the first WGC event of the season, and the Aphibarnrat-Stenson pairing is one of four ties pitting European Tour players against each other. Stephen Gallacher faces Ernie Els, Luke Donald takes on Matteo Manassero and Thomas Björn has drawn Francesco Molinari.