Kiradech Aphibarnrat to lead Asian Tour challenge in CIMB Classic, Nicholas Fung earns start as top-ranked Malaysian

Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat will spearhead the Asian Tour challenge in this year’s CIMB Classic, while Nicholas Fung earned a spot in the US$7 million event as the top-ranked Malaysian in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Kiradech, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will be amongst the leading 10 players from the tour to challenge 60 PGA Tour players including the likes of Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els. Sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the Asian Tour, the fourth edition of the CIMB Classic tees off at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC) from October 24-27,

The 24-year-old Kiradech represents a new breed of young Asian golfers who are strongly tipped to become world-beaters. Kiradech’s confidence will be sky-high for the CIMB Classic as he triumphed in the Malaysian Open which was also staged at KLGCCs West Course in March this year. The burly Thai, one of the most exciting young players to emerge onto the scene, finished tied 21st in the inaugural CIMB Classic in 2010.

Currently ranked 404th in the world, Fung will join national qualifier winner Rashid Ismail as the second local player in the upcoming tournament. Fung has enjoyed a good season on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) this year where he claimed his maiden title on home soil in June and secured five top-10 finishes. He is currently second on the ADT Order of Merit with a season’s haul of US$35,740.

The complete field for the CIMB Classic will comprise 60 players from the PGA Tour, the top 10 available players from the Asian Tour Order of Merit and eight sponsor’s exemptions.

Nicholas Fung

Nicholas Fung

The other Asian Tour qualifiers, based on the leading available 10 players from the Order of Merit following the conclusion of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on Sunday, include newly crowned Mercuries Taiwan Masters champion Scott Hend of Australia, his compatriot Wade Ormsby, Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng and American Berry Henson. India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Kapur, who have a combined eight Asian Tour titles, Thailand-based Korean Baek Seuk-hyun and Siddikur of Bangladesh also earned prized spots in the CIMB Classic .

Trailblazer Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour in 2010, will be making his fourth successive appearance at the CIMB Classic. He moved from 17th to ninth on the latest Order of Merit after finishing equal third in Taipei on Sunday.

“I’m really happy to qualify for the CIMB Classic again. I had a good outing in 2010 when I finished tied 11th and I hope to play well again later this month,” said the Bangladeshi, who also recently qualified for the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf.

Currently ranked second in Asia, big-hitting Hend, the first player to win multiple titles on the Asian Tour this season, is looking forward to teeing up in the CIMB Classic as he had previously featured on the PGA Tour in 2004 and 2005.

“The CIMB Classic is a chance for me to get back onto the PGA Tour,” said Hend, referring to the fact that this year’s winner will receive a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour as the CIMB Classic will be Asia’s first official counting event for the FedEx Cup.

“All of us who are playing in that tournament have got through on our own merits. It only takes one good week for us to make it. We know the course pretty well as we’ve played there a lot. If we can have a good week, you’ll see one of us play over there (PGA Tour) every week.”

 Apart from a two-year exemption, the winner of the 2013 CIMB Classic will also earn a spot in the 2014 Masters Tournament.

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