This will be the second successive year the 33-year-old will face the pressure of TOUR survival after finishing a lowly 190th on the FedExCup standings, well outside the top-125 required to retain playing rights on the world’s elite circuit.
A tied 13th finish at the Wyndham Championship, the final tournament of the PGA TOUR’s Regular Season two weeks ago, where he produced cards of 65 and 63 in the second and third rounds, has given him some self-belief ahead of a crucial next few weeks.
Kiradech also reunited with his first ever caddie from Thailand, Prajak Khaoprathum who flew out to the U.S. to carry his bag at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last month which snapped a run of five straight missed cuts.
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The Korn Ferry Tour Finals begins on Thursday with the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron at Hillcrest Country Club in Boise, Idaho.
“One thing I need to do is just go out there and play again. I was about to give up, so I’ve got nothing to lose. If I don’t get it (TOUR card), I can go back to Europe or Asia. If I get it back, it’ll be a bonus. I’m not forcing myself. Will just go out and play my own game. I just want to feel comfortable,” said Kiradech.
Ranked as high as 29th in the world previously, Kiradech, who holds four victories on the DP World Tour, started playing full time on the PGA TOUR in 2019 but a knee injury led to a big dip in form which also dented his confidence greatly. He said he was on the verge of giving up his American dream this season after missing nine cuts from 19 starts but a commendable outing at Wyndham, and with Prajak back by his side, changed his mind.
“I was ready to go home, to be honest,” said Kiradech, who has nine career top-10s from 104 PGA TOUR starts. “I felt like I would give up on the PGA TOUR and staying in the U.S. When I walk out of my house, it feels like I’m on my own, and I couldn’t speak the same language with my American caddies. Then when I got my first Thai caddie to come out here, I thought let’s give it another shot at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. I wasn’t planning on the Finals but I just can’t give it away by not trying. A million other people would want to be in this spot. I have nothing to lose.”
Kiradech feels his ball-striking has improved vastly over the last few weeks, but knows his putter must work like a magic wand if he is to succeed in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. He has been tinkering with various equipment in recent weeks in hope of landing the right flatstick. Prajak’s presence has also been a massive boost to his confidence as his caddie is also a close friend.
“I feel comfortable when I have my friend on the bag. We talk the same language. We believe I can do something better than before. We trust each other and I’m swinging it nicely. You can also see I’m making less bogeys, less mistakes in the last few weeks,” said Kiradech.
“My game felt good starting from the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Ball striking has been much better, and tee to green has been consistent. I shot two of my lowest rounds at Wyndham. I have been on and off the PGA TOUR since 2014 and I showed I was always up there in the top-50 in the world. But after my injury and loss of confidence, it’s just one bad moment in this lifetime. I don’t know when I can get back my form but everything can come back.”
Kiradech finished T20, T34 and T27 in the three tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last season to grab the 21st card available for the PGA TOUR. He feels upbeat of his chances. “I like those courses, played well last year,” he said.
“What I’m doing right now is coming at the right way and I just need to bring everything together at the same time.”