Kiradech leads Asian Tour’s top ten to Classic

Kiradech Aphibarnrat copy;Khalid Redza/Asian Tour
Kiradech Aphibarnrat copy;Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat will spearhead a power-packed Asian Tour line-up, including national number one Nicholas Fung in the US$7 million CIMB Classic at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club later this month.

Kiradech, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will be amongst the leading 10 players from the region’s premier tour to challenge 60 PGA Tour players including the likes of Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els in the lucrative event.

The 24-year-old will eye his second successive title at the challenging West Course layout, having lifted the Malaysian Open crown there in March and improve on his tied 21st in the inaugural CIMB Classic in 2010.

All eyes will be on local hero Fung, who joins compatriot Md Rashid Ismail in the field, having finished as the leading Malaysian on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) on October 7.

The 23-year-old Sabahan, who came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School earlier this year, has enjoyed a good season on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) this year with a victory and five top-ten finishes and currently lies second on the ADT Order of Merit with a season’s haul of US$35,740.

The other Asian Tour qualifiers include Australians Scott Hend and Wade Wade Ormsby, Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng, American Berry Henson, Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun, Indian trio Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Kapur as well as  Siddikur of Bangladesh.

Trailblazer Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour in 2010, will be making his fourth successive appearance at the CIMB Classic after a splendid tied third finish at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last week, which moved him from 17th to ninth on the latest Order of Merit before the cut-off.

“I’m really happy to qualify for the CIMB Classic again. I had a good outing in 2010 when I finished tied 11th and I hope to play well again later this month,” said the Bangladeshi, who also recently qualified for the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf.

Big-hitting Hend, the first player to win multiple titles on the Asian Tour this season, is looking forward to teeing up in the CIMB Classic as he had previously featured on the PGA Tour in 2004 and 2005.

“The CIMB Classic is a chance for me to get back onto the PGA Tour,” said Hend, referring to the fact that this year’s winner will receive a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour as the CIMB Classic will be Asia’s first official counting event for the FedEx Cup.

“All of us who are playing in that tournament have got through on our own merits. It only takes one good week for us to make it. We know the course pretty well as we’ve played there a lot. If we can have a good week, you’ll see one of us play over there every week.”

Apart from a two-year exemption, the winner of the 2013 CIMB Classic will also earn a spot in the 2014 Masters Tournament.