The 32-year-old from Thailand has struggled to find the kind of form which has earned him four European Tour titles, but he reignited the flame on the West Course’s famous back nine. Five birdies in succession were complimented by back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th, earning him an eight under 64 and a one-stroke advantage.
He was joined at the top by South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the three-time European Tour winner carding an eagle at the par five fourth hole and picking up birdies on the final three holes to sign for his 64.
Adam Scott is one shot back on seven under par after a 65, which included eight birdies, with the Australian making a happy return to the prestigious event after 15 years away.
Justin Rose, who requires a win this week to seal an automatic qualification place in Pádraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team, started strongly with a five under 67 to share fourth place with his English compatriot Laurie Canter and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura.
Shane Lowry is the man who currently occupies the final qualification spot, and he enjoyed a steady opening 70, while Bernd Wiesberger – who has the strongest chance of breaking into the team in the final week of qualification – signed for a one under par opening 71.
Play was suspended overnight due to darkness, with four groups remaining to complete round one.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: “It was incredible, to be honest, my putter worked very well today, a lot of good ball-striking, tee-to-green it was lovely. I think I had a couple missed shots, especially the last hole, I was trying to catch at the ball make sure it get over the rough. But I caught it a little bit too thin. But I holed a long par putt which is fantastic.
“I just want to come out here and enjoy every single minute that I spend on European Tour. It feel like every time I come back it just feels like home. I feel comfortable over here. I see some friends, see my coaches, and it’s a lovely golf course. I enjoy it every time I come back to Wentworth.”
Christiaan Bezuidenhout: “I drove the ball lovely today, so I just kept it in play. Gave myself a chance, and the putter was good.
“Had a nice chip-in on 4 which makes my round solid. But, yeah, three birdies in a row, back-to-back par-5s to finish off, which is tricky also.
“I spoke to my coach last week, and I just said everything is there. Everything with my game feels better than a year ago, but I’m not getting the scores or the results. So, it’s just a matter of staying patient out there. It’s not always going to go well. You’re going to go through a little bit of blips and bumps, things like that. But, I just stayed patient and luckily it’s been paying off.”
Adam Scott: “It was a lot of really good, solid stuff. Generally it was fairways and greens. There wasn’t too much squirrely stuff, although a couple wedges coming in, it could have been better. Then on 15, I got out of jail and made an incredible three. Nice to get break and take advantage of it.
“I definitely thought the first ball was out-of-bounds but it must have clouded around in the trees and dropped down. The second ball actually might not have been any better off the tee but found the first one and punched it up there. That was a good shot, hit it 50 yards and flicked it straight at the hole.
“Some days it’s your day out there, and it kind of felt like that a bit for me today. It was nice to make the most of it and shoot a good number.”
Justin Rose: “It was better than decent. That’s a good score today to be honest with you. This golf course has teeth. We have had some sunny days and this morning, a bit darker and a bit more grey, I felt like it was a little heavier and thicker with the rough in terms of the conditions. You had to work for your score today. I felt like the start of this golf course today 1, 2, 3, were playing pretty tough.
“I haven’t really paid tons of attention in terms of what I have to do (to make the Ryder Cup team), I’ve just been trying to focus on my game and my form. That’s what I’m focusing on.