Updated: 02/19/2014 08:41 | By Agence France-Presse

Thai Kiradech confident despite last-man status

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, is confident despite being the last man to qualify for the $9 million World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.


Thai Kiradech confident despite last-man status

Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand hits to the green in the final round of the Golf World Cup tournament played at the Royal Melbourne course on November 24, 2013 - by William West

Kiradech, ranked 67th, only qualified for the 64-man field for the first time because three of the world's top players -- world number one Tiger Woods, reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott -- decided to skip the tournament.

But that has not dimmed his appreciation of the achievement or his optimism as he looks to a first-round match with reigning US PGA Tour playoff champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

"So great. So proud of myself to be here and to play with top 64 player in the world. It is very special," Kiradech said.

Stenson won the 2007 match-play title and last year's Tour Championshuip, but that just adds to the excitement for the 24-year-old from Bangkok.

"I played with Stenson last year, after he got on fire. Such a good player," Kiradech said. "I love to play with the top players because in match play everything happens, you have nothing to lose, and I'll try to play best as I can.

"Whether I win or lose I'm happy to be here."

Kiradech last played in a match play format at last year's Royal Trophy in China, where Europe edged Asia.

"I love to play with the match play," Kiradech said. "I won three point for the Asian team so I have a lot of confidence with the format."

And Kiradech feels his game is well suited for the test the desert layout will offer as well as the format.

"I have a lot of distance," he said. "And I make a lot of birdies. I attack the pin. In the match play you can make a lot of birdies and you can make a lot of mistakes. But if you make birdies, it's good."

Kiradech was hoping to have a first-round match against 14-time major winner Woods, although if the world number one had been here, the Thai standout would not have been.

"I hoped to be (ranked) 64, right on the number, to play with Tiger," he confessed. "Even if I lose, it's fun to play with the top players. And you get a lot of experience from him."

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