(Reuters) – Kiradech Aphibarnrat does not seem to be fazed at the prospect of being the first Thai to play on the PGA Tour as he kept sight of the leading pack at Sheshan International in Shanghai by shooting a four-under-par 68 in the first round on Thursday.
He notched up six birdies to trail American leader Patrick Reed by four strokes at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament.
“There’s a lot of birdies out there, but you can’t make a mistake,” he said of a course that can be attacked from the fairways but which also has plenty of water hazards.
Aphibarnrat had an eventful debut two weeks ago as a full member of the PGA Tour when he spent two nights in hospital with dehydration during the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur.
“It was too hot in Malaysia, some dehydration, and some more rest, but so far I’ve been recovered and I’m good to go,” the 29-year-old told reporters.
Aphibarnrat has plied his trade to considerable success on the European Tour, picking up four career victories.
However, he has switched allegiances after earning enough money in his limited starts on the PGA Tour last season to earn his card on the U.S.-based circuit.
Though Thai women are prominent on the LPGA Tour, including world number two Ariya Jutanugarn, Aphibarnrat stands alone on the men’s circuit.
“To be the first Thai golfer to play on the PGA Tour is such pressure,” the world number 41 said before talking about how he hoped to be a trailblazer for his nation.
“(I will) try to let the new generation see that we are coming from a small country in Asia and that we can play against the top players in the world.
“(I) just want to inspire them.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)