Singapore: Tiger Woods’ withdrawal from next week’s US Open has opened the door for rising Thailand star Thitiphun Chuayprakong.
The 23-year-old Thai, who claimed his breakthrough Asian Tour win in Bangladesh in February, was the first alternate from the Japan sectional qualifying site and replaces the injured Woods in the starting line-up at Oakmont Country Club next week.
Thitiphun shot rounds of 66 and 72 for a four-under-par 138 total to finish six shots behind winner Yuta Ikeda of Japan in fifth place at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club last month.
While Thitiphun will head to Oakmont for the year’s second Major, his compatriot Thongchai Jaidee has withdrawn for personal reasons. He is being replaced by Indian Jeev Milkha Singh.
Other Asians in the Oakmont field include Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Indian Anirban Lahiri, Korean KT Kim and Filipino Miguel Tabuena, who topped the sectional qualifying in California earlier this week.
Thitiphun was delighted to earn the late call-up into his first Major.
“I am feeling very happy. I thought my chances of getting in wasn’t high. I am feeling very excited now as it’ll be my first time playing in a Major. It’s going to be a boost to my career. Kiradech has called me earlier and asked me to stay with him (in the rented home at Oakmont). I am very thankful,” Thitiphun said.
Thitiphun made up for the disappointment of missing out on his Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School in January by claiming his maiden win in the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open the following month. He is currently in 21st place on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
“It’s not going to be easy. I checked out the golf course on YouTube and it looks very difficult. I will work on my tee shots before getting there. I have been practising hard and I am confident of handling myself during the tournament.
“Everything is getting better. It’s important to have a good game plan and a good mindset. I am really looking forward to next week,” added the Thai.