GULLANE, SCOTLAND : Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat is gearing up for the biggest challenge of his career _ his major debut at this week's British Open.
The young big hitter is one of the three Thais, along with veterans Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, at the Muirfield championship which starts tomorrow.
Kiradech, who secured his second Asian Tour title and first European Tour triumph at the Malaysian Open in March, is determined to produce his best despite his unfamiliarity with links golf.
"I've been trying to work on my swing because the conditions will be different at the Open. The wind will be a big challenge for us [Asians] because we don't play in windy conditions," said the 23-year-old.
"I've played in several links courses in Japan but it is different in Scotland. It will be very windy and it might even rain. It will be tough. I must feel comfortable with the conditions."
Dubbed 'Asia's John Daly' for his grip-it-and-rip-it style of play, Kiradech qualified for the year's third major by winning the international final qualifying Asia in March.
Thongchai, 43, earned his place in the elite field through his European Tour ranking, while Thaworn got an exemption thanks to winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit last season.
"I've watched many great players win the Open on TV, so I'm proud that I'llplay in the championship," Kiradech said.
"It is nice to have Thaworn and Thongchai in the field as well. I must learn from them because they have achieved so much in golf."
Thaworn was waiting anxiously for the arrival of his golf equipment as he prepares for his second Open challenge.
His golf set did not arrive from London and he was disappointed to miss a practice round at Muirfield with Kiradech and Thongchai yesterday.
"It is disappointing because I won't know how the course is playing yet. I'll just have to wait for my clubs. If it doesn't arrive then I'll have to make a set here," lamented Thaworn.
To make up for his free time, the 46-year-old worked on his putting after receiving a new putter from his equipment supplier.
Thaworn knows it will be a challenging task to improve on his credible tied 31st finish at Royal Liverpool in 2006 if his golf equipment, which includes a new set of irons, does not arrive on time.
"It is going to be tough. My own game isn't good and I've been missing a lot of cuts. My short game is okay but my irons and driving are not good. I decided to change to a new set of irons for this week so I hope it arrives soon," he said.
"The weather has been good these few days but it might change. If it stays this way [sunny and breezy], then I think we [Thais] will be more comfortable playing here," added Thaworn, who has won a record 15 Asian Tour titles.
In the first two rounds, Thongchai will play alongside American Tom Lehman and Sweden's Fredrik Jacobsen, Thaworn is grouped with Lucas Glover of the US and Swede Oscar Floren, while Kiradech is in the same group with South African Thomas Aiken and American Bud Cauley.