Aphibarnrat flies Thai flag high with bogey-free tournament, Hend king of the style stakes

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Kiradech Aphibarnrat is perched just two shots behind the leader.

Thailand and its proud people have gone through emotional turmoil this year – but one of the country’s most beloved sportsmen has risen above it.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is the only man not to have holed a bogey heading into moving day at the DP World Tour Championship and, on eight-under par, is nicely perched just two shots behind leader Matthew Fitzpatrick.

His performance is the culmination of a recent string of excellent performances on the European Tour, though Thailand has never been far away from his thoughts.

Thais revere their monarchy and the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016 started a national year of mourning that only ended in October with his formal funeral.

All the while, 28-year-old Aphibarnrat has flown the Thai flag high and a fine season-ending display in Dubai would be no small way to honour the late king’s memory.

“I’ve tried to do my job. It hasn’t been a good year for Thailand after we lost the king, even though we have a new, fantastic one (Maha Vajiralongkorn),” said Aphibarnrat. “It was a big moment when we lost him, but I’ve tried to carry on and make Thailand proud.

“I’m very proud and really pleased to be part of tournament, there are only 60 players in the field this week and we are just a small country in Asia and I’m playing against the best players in the world.

“It’s my passion and it’s really tough to explain, but I’ll try and do my best to fly the Thai flag.”

Aphibarnrat is the only man to have not holed a bogey so far in the fray.

Aphibarnrat is the only man to have not holed a bogey so far in the fray.

For so long one of the more portly characters on tour, Aphibarnrat is ‘getting stronger and striking better’ after losing a whopping 10 kilos in the last four months thanks to a new fitness regime.

However, his form so far in the desert can be put down to his prowess on the greens as a final birdie on the 18th saw him submit a five-under par card of 67.

“The way I started the first two rounds, I’ve put myself in the position to do well now,” added the world No90, who checked into Earth course in 21st on the Race to Dubai.

“It was all about putting. This course is like a putting contest, but you have to hit a good shot as well. “When I hit a bad shot I crumble around the greens and get up and down, so overall my putting was the best part of the first two rounds.”

Best-dressed

Whereas a few braved loud colours – Patrick Reed and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, we’re looking at you – and Jon Rahm looked sleek in double turquoise, Scott Hend takes the prize.

In what can be best described as purple camouflage print, Hend found nowhere to hide on the course – not that he would have wanted to. A steady round of 71 has him just three shots off the pace.

Shot of the day

It was quite literally an up and down day for Paul Dunne, who at one point hit himself in the head with a putter in frustration on the way to a two-under day.

The Irishman had no such trouble with his short game on the par five seventh, as his pitch shot from about 35 feet out had just enough loft to roll sweetly into the hole upon landing for an eagle.

Dunne's perfect pitch shot for an eagle was the best of the entire lot.

Dunne’s perfect pitch shot for an eagle was the best of the entire lot.

Player of the day

By the way he traipsed off the 18th green, Tyrrell Hatton would not have slept easy last night as a joint course record of 62 eluded his grasp due to a mood-dampening bogey.

But he nevertheless cranked up the volume on what was shaping up to be a muted end of the season, having only made par on Thursday. No one came close to matching his card.

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