Kiradech Aphibarnrat might be one of the most recognisable figures in professional golf, and when he won in Aberdeen in 2015, he endeared himself to plenty of Scottish golf fans.
Speaking exclusively to bunkered.co.uk, the Thai superstar reflected on his victory at the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play, amongst plenty other topics.
Aphibarnrat claimed his first win on European soil at Murcar Links Golf Club, when he defeated Robert Karlsson in the final, a week he remembers well. The flambouyant 32-year-old impressed the crowds with his aggressive strategy off-the-tee, which saw him hit driver where most others went for a conservative approach.
“Yeah, I just love to hit the big stick,” he said. “I feel like if I miss the fairway then I’m really hurting myself. I’d rather hit driver in the rough around the green than hit a fairway wood and a have a 9-iron into the green.
“You can make a big number – nine, ten, whatever – you can lose three balls and you’ll only lose one hole, you’ll not lose the whole event. I’m always trying to make as many birdies as I can. I’ll try to make ten birdies in a round.”
Despite coming from the balmy climates of southeast Asia, Aphibarnrat actually prefers the Scottish weather to that of his homeland.
“I love everything about Scotland. I really like the weather. Where I come from, it’s a really hot country, so we prefer it a little cooler.
“On the golf course, it’s difficult. You need to keep the ball low, under the wind and I love playing the shots. Moving the ball right-to-left, left-to-right. I think that could be the reason I play well in Scotland, because I love shaping the ball around. I love the challenge.”
As much as Aphibarnrat enjoyed his time in Scotland, it’s not lost on him how important his 2015 victory was in his progression, as he became the first Thai player to earn a PGA Tour card in 2018.
“To win outside Asia, I think I really proved myself. Before that, I had three wins under my belt but they all came from Malaysia, China and Australia, so to win one in Europe, it really meant a lot to me.
“I always say that I come from a little country in Asia, so to win in Europe makes me so happy. Now, I’m trying to win somewhere else, in the USA. It’s really difficult over here but I’m still working on improving myself and showing what I can do.”
Aphibarnrat is currently ranked outside the top-200 in the OWGR, but he told bunkered.co.uk that he hopes a combination of hard work and increased confidence will get him back in the top-50 in the world.
“I’m not far off. I’m getting there. It’s just confidence and believing in myself more and I believe I will find my way back. To find the next win is the most important thing in my golf career because I’ve been struggling the last two or three years.
“One good week will really push me on and give me momentum and give me confidence.”
Read an extended interview with Kiradech Aphibarnrat in issue 192 of bunkered, on sale now.