John Daly may have been the big attraction but it was his Asian equivalent who claimed the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie match play crown at Murcar Links yesterday.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, nicknamed the Asian John Daly because of his burly frame and aggressive approach, beat Sweden’s Robert Karlsson on the 18th hole to win the inaugural tournament and claim his first victory outside of Asia.
The 26-year-old has modelled his game on the big-hitting American golfer, nicknamed Wild Thing, and was delighted to be the last man standing in the 64-player event after his hero Daly exited in the first round.
Aphibarnrat said: “After my first two or three years of playing golf I looked at John Daly’s swing over and over. He has a long back swing and he is a big guy. He was one of my idols, so I studied him closely. He won two majors and was one of the best players in the world. I was so proud to be described as the John Daly of Asia.
“I remember a long time ago some guy kept telling me that if I had a long back swing like that I would not grow up to be a professional. Today I can show them it is not just about the back swing, it is about how you hole putts to make low scores. That was why John Daly won majors. I didn’t get the chance to speak to him this week but we have played together a couple of times before in Thailand and he is a nice guy.”
Aphibarnrat, who had defeated Scotland’s Marc Warren 3 and 2 to book his place in the final, raced into an early lead in yesterday afternoon’s final with birdies at three of the opening six holes to move three up.
Karlsson, seeking his first European Tour win since 2010, reduced the deficit by winning the eighth and ninth with birdies but the Thai golfer restored his three-hole advantage by winning the 11th – after finding the green with a monstrous 380yd drive and two putting for birdie – and the 14th with par.
It looked all but over as a contest but Karlsson was not going to go down without a fight and claimed the next three holes to drag the match back to all square after 17 holes and set up a nerve-jangling finish.
The apprehension was showing as both players missed the fairway at the 18th tee, with Karlsson finding the fringe of the adjacent second green, while Aphibarnrat sliced his drive into the rough.
The Swede produced an excellent approach to 10ft but his opponent’s effort was even better, a majestic effort that came to rest a mere 4ft from the pin. Karlsson, who struggled with the short stick all afternoon, came up short with his birdie putt but Aphibarnat displayed no hint of nerves as he holed out to win the match. This was Aphibarnrat’s second European Tour victory of the 2015 season after his win at the Shenzhen International in April.
Karlsson, who had missed six cuts on the bounce before this week, was proud of his finest performance of the year.
The Swede has endured a below-par season with his previous best finish a tied 26th placing at the Volvo China Open.
He said: “I did much better than I expected coming here, so I can take a lot of positives from this.
“Getting that close to winning and getting the match back to all square going down the last stings a bit but that is all part of being a professional golfer.
“It is disappointing to get to the final and lose but, given how I have been playing lately, it was good to have a chance to win on the last hole. But Kiradech is a great player and he made a fantastic birdie on the last to win, so he deserved it.”