Golf Comment: Bangkok’s answer to John Daly Aphibarnrat is breath of fresh air

Sam Torrance
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Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 26, won his first title outside of Asia at the inaugural Paul Lawrie Match Play at Murcar Links on Sunday

S NOT difficult to see why Kiradech Aphibarnrat is frequently compared to John Daly. Most obviously, Thailand’s newest golfing sensation has the same full frame as the maverick two-time Major winner.

But the similarities don’t end there. Aphibarnrat, who won his second European Tour title of the season on Sunday at the Paul Lawrie Match Play, also shares the same wonderful swing as the American.

Like Daly, everyone who watches him remarks on what a fantastic striker of the ball he is. Aphibarnrat welcomes the comparisons and, in a sport increasingly populated by athletic types, I think he’s a breath of fresh air.

He played brilliantly all week to win at Murcar, not least in the final, where he fended off a resurgent Robert Karlsson. The Swede came from three down with four to play to tie at 17, but the younger man held his nerve despite finding the rough off the tee, producing a great second shot and clinching the title with a birdie.

It’s the best part of 6,000 miles from Bangkok to Murcar, in the heartland of links golf near Aberdeen, so it was a magnificent win and, as Aphibarnrat’s first title outside of Asia, another big step for him.

Karlsson’s return to competitiveness was also nice to see. The former European No1 has had his injury problems and had missed the cut in eight of his previous 10 events, so this was a welcome lift for him.

I was pleased, too, for Marc Warren, who reached the semi-finals on home soil only to be beaten by Aphibarnrat 3&2. That was enough to lift him back into the world’s top 50 and earn him a place at this week’s World Golf Championship event, the Bridgestone Invitational, and the US PGA Championship next week.

It was great to see sponsors take a chance on genuine match play golf at Paul Lawrie’s new event, which I thought enjoyed a great start to its initial three-year stint on the European Tour calendar.

In recent years we have seen some match play tournaments use a round robin format, rather than a straight knockout. This tends to be favoured by sponsors as it ensures star names don’t fall at the first hurdle.

The problem is that it is not real match play. It should be about looking your competitor in the face and beating them – and once you’ve lost, you’re out.

Congratulations too to Inbee Park, whose superb final round of 65 earned her a seventh Major title from a very high quality staging of the Women’s British Open at a majestic Turnberry.

And well done to Troy Merritt on his maiden PGA Tour win at the Quicken Loans National, which guarantees his tour card for two years and books his place at the US PGA, the FedEx Play-offs and next year’s Masters.

Tiger Woods showed further signs of returning to some kind of form with three rounds under 70 at the same tournament, but blew it with a woeful 74 on Saturday.

The former world No1 is a conspicuous absentee from the Bridgestone Invitational, as is injured champion Rory McIlroy. All eyes will be on whether their would-be successor Jordan Spieth can win on his return after going so close at the Open, or maybe this will be the week that Dustin Johnson finally finishes one off. He’s due a win.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam


WGC Bridgestone Invitational
■ Where/when: Firestone CC, Thu-Sun
■ Holder: Rory McIlroy (injured)
■ Field includes: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Danny Willett