Aphibarnrat, others vying for Match Play spots
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Wearing a pair of pants with patches of fluorescent colors – pink, yellow, green, red – John Daly clearly stood out as he pounded balls at the far right side of the sparkling new practice range at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
In the hitting area to Daly’s left was his amateur partner, the rambunctious Kid Rock. Now if watching Hank Haney offering advice and guidance to Kid Rock wasn’t enough to make you realize that you were at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, watching a convergence of San Francisco 49ers legends at the other end of the practice range surely did it.
But somewhere between those unusual sights was the big smile of a big man, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the 24-year-old Thai who has risen to No. 66 in the world. He is seeing Pebble Beach for the first time, having come here from a disappointing weekend (73-76) dropped him into a share of 67th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
If Aphibarnrat has added incentive for the week, it would be the good opportunity he has to make it into the upcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week will qualify, and Aphibarnrat stands 66th. Of those ranked 60th to 75th, only five are in action this week (No. 64 Richard Sterne and No. 74 George Coetzee are in the European Tour's Joburg Open in their native South Africa; Aphibarnrat, No. 73 Bo Van Pelt and No. 75 D.A. Points are at Pebble), so certainly they’ve got the chance to enhance their positions.
Scott Piercy, ranked 65th, had entered at Pebble Beach. But he’s been having issues with an elbow, and after finishing T-15 at the WMPO opted to withdraw from the AT&T National Pro-Am.
With several big names expected to skip this year’s Match Play, those ranked 65th to 68th could find themselves with spots, but obviously, getting into the top 64 is the safest route.