GOLF: Kiradech heads Asian line-up

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CIMB CLASSIC: Burly Thai has the form to challenge the heavyweights

THAI star Kiradech Aphibarnrat will spearhead a power-packed Asian Tour line-up that  include Malaysia's Nicholas Fung, for  the RM22 million CIMB Classic at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Oct 24-27.

Kiradech, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will be amongst the leading 10 players from the region's premier tour to challenge 60 PGA Tour players including Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els in the lucrative event sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the Asian Tour.

The 24-year-old Kiradech represents a new breed of young Asian golfers who are strongly tipped to become world-beaters.

His confidence will be sky-high for the CIMB Classic, having triumphed in the Malaysian Open which was also staged at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club's 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.

Top Malaysian-ranked golfer, Fung will join fellow national golfer Rashid Ismail for the second Malaysian spot in the tournament.

Fung, who came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School earlier this year, 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.

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.

The other Asian Tour qualifiers, based on the leading available 10 players from the Order of Merit, include newly crowned Taiwan Masters champion Scott Hend of Australia, countryman Wade Ormsby, Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng and American Berry Henson.

India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, who is 25, 26-year-old Anirban Lahiri and 31-year-old Shiv Kapur, who have a combined eight Asian Tour titles, Korea's Baek Seuk Hyun, who turned 23 this week, and 28-year-old Siddikur of Bangladesh have all earned their prized spots in the fourth edition of the event following the conclusion of the Taiwan Masters on Sunday.

Trailblazer Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour in 2010, will make 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 Siddikur, who recently qualified for the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf.


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