Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - Rising Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat's strong performance in Malaysia's CIMB Classic on Sunday all but clinches the Asian Tour's Order of Merit and burnishes his claim as its best golfer.
The bulky 24-year-old fell just a stroke shy of joining Gary Woodland and Ryan Moore in a playoff at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club -- a showdown put off until Monday due to lengthy final-round rain delays.
The big-hitting Kiradech, who has become a crowd favourite with his go-for-broke play, will take home $406,000, bringing his season tally in Asia to approximately $1.1 million, the Asian Tour said.
That leaves him in commanding position, some $600,000 ahead of second-placed Scott Hend of Australia, with only a handful of events left, it said.
It also makes him only the second player to top $1 million on the Asian Tour in a single year, after India's Jeev Milkha Singh in 2008.
"I'm very proud of the way I played this week. My goal is like top five or top 10, so I'm happy enough. The way I'm striking the ball this week is brilliant," he said.
Tied for the lead during much of the tournament, Kiradech finished ahead of world stars Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia in Kuala Lumpur.
He plans to play several more Asian Tour events to lock in the Order of Merit.
It was the second time this year Kiradech made an impression in Malaysia, where he won the Maybank Malaysian Open in March.
"It feels like home, Malaysia. I love it," he said.
He admitted the storm delays broke his stride, missing makeable birdies after play resumed late Sunday afternoon.
"I learned a lot, that when I try too much, I just forced myself too much," he said.
"But when you have the opportunity to win this PGA TOUR event, it changes your life, changes your future."
The CIMB Classic champion gains a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a spot in next year?s US Masters tournament.Kiradech will join a star-studded field including world number one Tiger Woods next week at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, China.