February 25, 2019 / 6:58 AM / 9 months ago

Late birdie burst eases pressure on Thai Kiradech

(Reuters) - Kiradech Aphibarnrat has found it hard to make an impact since becoming the first Thai to earn his PGA Tour card but on Sunday he proved he has the talent to compete on the elite circuit after a closing birdie run saw him finish tied for third at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Feb 23, 2019; Mexico City, MEX; Kiradech Aphibarnrat plays his shot from the 13th tee during the third round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Starting the final round tied for seventh at the World Golf Championships event at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Kiradech carded a final round of 68 for an 11-under-par 273 alongside English pair Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

He finished 10 shots adrift of winner Dustin Johnson, but the Thai said closing with three straight birdies was a real confidence booster.

“The greens are really difficult. If you’re not careful, it can hurt. I stayed patient all day,” he said.

“I say the last three birdies are a big thing for me. It gives me a lift and shows I should just go and play my own game. It’s been a great week.”

Kiradech has won four times on the European Tour but has struggled in his first season in the United States. The 29-year-old missed the cut in two of his last three appearances, including last week’s Genesis Open where he was one shot above the line.

After a three-put bogey on the third hole on Sunday, Kiradech got the shot back at the fifth and held steady until kicking off his run of birdies at the 16th.

“I’ve been playing really tight all days, just waiting until the time was coming,” said Kiradech, who hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation in the final round.

“I was even par after 15 holes, which is a top day for me. I just put a lot of pressure on myself, I wanted to do well here. The last few birdies mean a lot to me.”

Kiradech’s career best WGC outing lifted him nine spots to 36th in the world rankings and up to 52nd on the FedexCup standings.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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