Aphibarnrat can quickly get back among birdies
STORY SO FAR
KIRADECH APHIBARNRAT was in full control of the inaugural Shenzhen International through 16 holes of his third round in China, but the chunky Thai struggled on the 17th and 18th holes to congest the leaderboard going into Sunday's finale.
Aphibarnrat was six shots clear at the top through 52 holes of the tournament, but found two bunkers on the par-five 17th and three-putted, a double-bogey seven reigniting the event.
The pre-tournament 40-1 chance was trading at a general 1-4 in-play before his horrors on the 17th, which were swiftly followed by a bogey five at the 18th. Aphibarnrat's six-shot advantage had been cut to just two by the time he trudged wearily off the final green.
Lanky American Peter Uihlein is alone in second place, with feisty Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal a shot further behind in third. Ante-post 7-1 favourite Bubba Watson is two over par and tied for 58th place.
-12 Kiradech Aphibarnrat
-10 Peter Uihlein
-9 Pablo Larrazabal
-8 Emiliano Grillo, Matt Ford, Tommy Fleetwood, Scott Hend
-7 Kristoffer Broberg, Darren Fichardt, Y.E Yang, Tom Lewis, H-T Li
7-5 K Aphibarnrat, 9-2 P Uihlein, 7 P Larrazabal, 12 E Grillo, 14 T Fleetwood, 20 S Hend, 40 M Ford, 50 A Levy, 66 bar
THE double-bogey, bogey finish was an enormous blow to Kiradech Aphibarnrat's considerable solar plexus, but his upbeat post-round interview was encouraging for his backers.
Aphibarnrat appeared to have already put the setback behind him, accepting that golf is full of such twists and turns, and was preferring to focus on his fantastic work over the first 16 holes of round three. He has been swinging beautifully for the most part.
Aphibarnrat has a long-term thyroid condition which means he can tire over the closing stages of a round. Maybe his mini-implosion was down to a lack of energy. As the great man said himself, though, a good night's sleep and a new day should refresh and refocus the leader.
Temperament is one of the strong points of Aphibarnrat, who spent time last year learning how to be a monk. It is reasonable to expect him to shrug off the late drama endured at Genzon Golf Club. His form on the front nine this week has been sensational, so he could steady his ship quickly on Sunday
RPSPORT followers are in an excellent position – on Aphibarnrat at 40-1 and second-placed Peter Uihlein at 66-1 – and there is no need to have another outright investment at this stage.
Punters with decent bets on Aphibarnrat and Uihlein may choose to have some cover on a couple of the pursuers, but there is an extremely good chance that the final twoball will produce the champion. Both have won on the European Tour before and possess the power to make mincemeat of Genzon.
Scott Hend, Tommy Fleetwood, Emiliano Grillo and Pablo Larrazabal – in that order – are the most likely party-poopers. Hend, who won last year's Hong Kong Open at nearby Fanling, is a big-hitting Australian who is well capable of wins in a low grade like this. Expect him to apply early pressure to Uihlein and Aphibarnrat in round four.
Twoball punters are pointed towards Hend (against Larrazabal) and Fleetwood, who finished runner-up on this course in last year's China Open and should outclass compatriot Matt Ford. Swedish birdie machine Kristoffer Broberg can also be fancied to account for Darren Fichardt.
2pts 6-4 general
2pts 8-13 general
1pt 21-20 general