Asian stars Sharma and Kiradech shine at WGC-Mexico Championship

Mon 05 Mar 2018

Asian stars Sharma and Kiradech shine at WGC-Mexico Championship

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Mexico City, March 5: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat and young Indian talent Shubhankar Sharma earned plaudits for their battling display at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship which was won by American Phil Mickelson on Sunday. 

Kiradech, who claimed his third Asian Tour title in Australia last month, continued his fine form by claiming his career’s best result in a WGC tournament when he finished tied fifth after closing with a commendable six-under-par 65 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec. His four-day total of 13-under-par 271 was three shots shy of joining the play-off with Justin Thomas and Mickelson, who won on the first extra hole.  

Sharma, the youngest player in the elite field, earned a new legion of fans after holding the second and third round lead. Despite slipping to a share of ninth place following a 74 on the final day, Sharma can still hold his head high after finishing on 274.

Big-hitting Kiradech, Asia’s number one in 2013, matched the best result by a Thai player in a World Golf Championship event set previously by veteran Thongchai Jaidee at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 2010.

“I was very proud with the way I'm playing and finish top-five in the World Golf Championships is always the best. On Saturday, I didn’t hole a putt, it just kicked me out of position. I played great golf today but still a little bit behind, a little bit too far,” said the 28-year-old Kiradech.

Starting the day six shots off the pace, Kiradech made his charge with six birdies in his opening 14 holes before dropping a lone bogey of the day on 16. He then birdied the 18th hole from 10 feet for his high finish, which moved him to a career-high 36th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).

“I am really proud with the result. Top-five, it is a goal. But if you look back, I'm still not playing my best golf, my ‘A’ game, which on Saturday is supposed to be  moving day but I just stepped back and didn’t move at all. Obviously, I am really happy with the result,” added Kiradech.

The 21-year-old Sharma, who has won twice on the Asian Tour and the European Tour since last December, stood tall after capping a memorable WGC-debut, where he had led the star-studded field by two shots after day two and three.

“A little bit disappointed, I was leading and I think I couldn't finish it off. But that's what the game is about. And what I learned, especially playing with Phil, I'll cherish it forever,” said Sharma, whose solid showing in Mexico pushed him from 75th to 66th position on the OWGR.

Sharma believes he will learn greatly from the experience of playing alongside Mickelson. “If you would have asked me four months ago that I would be playing with Phil at a WGC event on the last day, I would have just laughed,” said Sharma, who also leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings. 

“Just playing with him has been fantastic. He's obviously a great man, showed me a few great shots. He's not afraid to go out there and get it out there and hit it at the pin, and he took some crazy clubs off the tee but that's what Phil is all about. I'll never forget it. Especially on 16 where he made birdie, it was the loudest roar I ever heard in my life. It was fantastic,” Sharma added.

At the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open, three-time Asian Tour champion Terry Pilkadaris of Australia rolled back the years by capping a solid runner-up finish and earned a prize purse of US$85,489. The result moved him to seventh place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.

American duo Paul Peterson and Berry Henson, who both finished tied-11th in New Zealand, remained in third and fourth position respectively on the Habitat for Humanity Standings. Sharma continues to lead on US$500,000 while Kiradech trails in second place with US$251,173.

Asian Tour rookie Kurt Kitayama of the United States continued his fine form since coming through the Qualifying School in January where he finished tied-third. He closed with a 65 to finish in a share of fourth place in his second start on Tour in New Zealand.

The 25-year-old Kitayama, who won his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title  two weeks after securing his Asian Tour card, jumped from 84th to 21st on the Habitat for Humanity Standings. The top-five result also earned him a coveted spot in the Hero Indian Open this week.

“I’ve been playing really well. I’m pleased my result in New Zealand as it has given me a spot in India this week. I’m looking forward to playing well again. I’m enjoying my time in Asia. I get to travel the world a little bit and it’s a whole new experience for me,” said Kitayama.

The Asian Tour travels to the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open this week. The prestigious event will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour and will be played at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

Ends.

Habitat for Humanity Standings – Top-20

Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)

1. Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) $500,000

2. Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) $251,173

3. Paul PETERSON (USA) $196,771

4. Berry HENSON (USA) $131,983

5. Shaun NORRIS (RSA) $112,200

6. Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) $95,612

7. Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) $93,435

8. Khalin JOSHI (IND) $92,880

9. Prom MEESAWAT (THA) $80,516

10. Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) $75,359

11. Danthai BOONMA (THA) $67,400

12. Jarin TODD (USA) $66,795

13. Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND)            $48,391

14. Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) $46,161

15. Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) $44,818

16. Shiv KAPUR (IND) $44,650

17. Scott VINCENT (ZIM) $42,636

18. Arjun ATWAL (IND) $40,041

19. Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) $39,596

20. David LIPSKY (USA) $38,857

About Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics), Habitat for Humanity (Official Sustainable Development Partner), ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), Titleist and FootJoy (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Wall Street Journal (Official International Media Partner) and Sentosa in Singapore which is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

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