The Masters, the first major championship of 2018, is still more than three months away, but Augusta National has been top of mind in recent weeks for many of the world’s elite.
One of the few ways players can qualify for the event is by finishing the calendar year inside the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That reality put an unusual onus on players in the field at last week’s Indonesian Masters, a co-sanctioned event on the Asian and Europen Tours.
While American Brandt Snedeker’s bid to sneak into the top-50 fell short, there was some jostling for position at Royal Jakarta Golf Club, which resulted in one of the most clutch holes of the season by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
End of year top 50 #OWGR:
— Nosferatu (@VC606) December 17, 2017
Kiradech’s eagle secured a solo fifth-place finish, which was enough to move him from 56th in the world to 49th. Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato, who began the week at No. 58, moved up to No. 50 thanks to his solo fourth-place finish. American Peter Uihlein and South African Dylan Fritelli were the two men on the short end of the Masters stick.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat will end the year in 49th place based on projected rankings released by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) on Monday.
The Thai was in 56th place before the start of the Indonesian Masters. But he moved five spots up the rankings following his outright fifth place finish at the Asian Tour season-ending flagship event for 2017.
The two-time Asian Tour winner, who was also Asia’s number one on 2013, will be further rewarded as he is likely to break into the world’s top-50 provided he is not being overtaken by any player from the final OWGR counting tournament of 2017 – the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship 2017 on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
Kiradech started 2017 with two top-10s in Abu Dhabi and Qatar on the European Tour. He secured another top-10 at the Thailand Open followed by another tied-ninth finish in the Netherlands.
The Thai then stormed into the last three months of 2017 with a tied-second finish in Italy, tied-sixth in Turkey and another tied-second finish in Dubai.
“I’ve been playing fantastic golf throughout the year. I worked hard all year and I’m pleased with how it has turned out,” said Kiradech, who started the year in 82nd place.
A place at the Masters Tournament awaits Kiradech in April 2018 and it is a Major that the Thai is determined to excel.
“I played in the Masters in 2016 and finished tied 15th. It’ll be my second time in Augusta if I get in again and I’m going to try my best to do better. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I do as I want to show the world an Asian player can surprise and contend for a Major,” said Kiradech.
Kiradech played through the pain barrier on the final day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club and it finally took an eagle-three on the final hole to lift him into fifth place, cementing his place among the world’s elite players on the rankings.
“I hit the ball right into the middle of the fairway and was about 220 yards away from the flag. I then used my four-iron and hit it perfectly to within 15 feet from the hole. It was an uphill putt but I hit it perfectly on the line and it went in. that eagle means a lot to me as I knew I had to finish fifth on my own (to break into top-50) and my last putt of the year did the job for me,” said Kiradech.
If you’re interested to find out more about Aphibarnrat — A.K.A. the Asian John Daly — here’s a video Vice and Callaway did earlier this year that explains Kiradech’s backstory, his interests and his unique lifestlye.
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