"2015 Stars to Watch: Kiradech, Siddikur, Baek, Chan"

Fri 30 Jan 2015

"2015 Stars to Watch: Kiradech, Siddikur, Baek, Chan"

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Kuala Lumpur, January 30: Our experts at asiantour.com continue with our predictions on the stars to watch in 2015 ahead of our season-opening event at the Maybank Malaysian Open next week. Today, we focus on Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Baek Seuk-hyun, Chan Shih-chang and Siddikur Rahman.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
Big-hitting Kiradech endured an up-and-down season in 2014 due largely to a knee injury, new equipment and coping with the loss of his long-time swing coach. The Thai star, Asia’s number one in 2013, struggled at the start of the year but finished strongly with four straight top-10s on the Asian Tour and was tied fifth in his debut at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
What can we expect:
With a new coach guiding him now, much is expected of Kiradech, who for his immense talent, has only won twice on the Asian Tour. We expect the big boy to challenge at the Maybank Malaysian Open next week, a title which he won in 2013 as the golf course suits his big-hitting game. He averaged 4.13 birdies per round on the Asian Tour last season which ranked him in tied fifth place in the category and took 1.75 putts per green in regulation which is decent for any player his caliber. He should be winning at least one tournament in Asia this year and perhaps contending in Europe as well.
Current World Ranking: 136th
Projected World Ranking at end of 2015: Top-50
Projected Order of Merit: Top-10
Baek Seuk-hyun of Korea Baek Seuk-hyun of Korea
Baek Seuk-hyun (Kor)
Thai-based Baek enjoyed three top-fives last season to finish in the top-20 of the Order of Merit. But in reality, he should be winning on the Asian Tour, considering the amount of talent that he has. The 24-year-old has come close over the years to a first title on the Asian Tour and with more experience under his belt now, the Korean is very much tipped to break his duck in the new 2015 season.
What can we expect:
Baek has shown the ability to contend on both the big-hitters’ paradise like at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club where he finished second in the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters last year and also on tight layouts such as the Seri Selangor Golf Club and Delhi Golf Club where he has contended in the past. What Baek needs to do is to improve his Driving Accuracy stat which stood at 59% last season. Once that number gets up, we can expect to see his name at the very top of a leaderboard soon.
Current World Ranking: 305th
Projected World Ranking at end of 2015: Top-150
Projected Order of Merit: Top-5
Venetian Macau Open - Round TwoChan Shih-chang (Tpe)
The Chinese Taipei star won three times on the Asian Development Tour en route to finishing second on the rankings to earn his Asian Tour card in 2015. He also played in 13 events on the premier tour last season but did not make much of a headway with the exception of a few events where he featured on the leaderboard. With experience gained from winning regularly on the ADT, the 28-year-old should shine this season on the Asian Tour, and perhaps contend in a few events.
What can we expect:
We expect him to challenge for a first Asian Tour victory especially in his home events at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and Yeangder Tournament Players Championship, where he finished fourth a few years ago. Chan is not spectacular in his play but he is rock steady which will come in handy on courses which demand precision and patience. Works extremely hard at his game and another solid campaign this season could also see him qualifying for the Olympics in Rio next year where he is currently in the top-60 man field based on qualification.
Current World Ranking: 262nd
Projected World Ranking at end of 2015: Top-200
Projected Order of Merit: Top-20
Siddikur Rahman (Ban)
Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh
A back injury curtailed Siddikur’s second half of the 2014 season which included three top-three finishes in Thailand, India and Philippines before his lay-off. He returned to action later in the year and posted a top-five at the Panasonic Open India but missed two cuts there after as he treated his back with caution. His pre-season preparation has been focused on preserving and strengthening his core back muscles and once fully fit again, we expect Siddikur to win a third Asian Tour title in 2015.
What can we expect:
His success in the new season will depend on how strong his back will be in the new year. If he is 100 percent, he will be a regular contender again. Siddikur doesn’t hit it a mile but he does hit it straight and hardly makes a mistake while his short game is also pretty tidy. He ranked in the top-25 in the Driving Accuracy and Putting average last year, which is the stat that you want to maintain in order to fight your way into contention regularly, especially on tight golf courses.
Current World Ranking: 241st
Projected World Ranking at end of 2015: Top-150
Projected Order of Merit: Top-10