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'Asia's John Daly' denies Ryder Cup winner to triumph in Malaysia

updated 12:42 PM EDT, Sun March 24, 2013
Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat celebrates after winning the Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on Sunday.
Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat celebrates after winning the Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kiradech Aphibarnrat wins shortened Malaysian Open by one shot on Sunday
  • Big-hitting 23-year-old becomes fourth Thai to win European Tour-sanctioned event
  • He heads off Edoardo Molinari despite dropping shot at the final hole
  • Denmark's Anders Hansen claims third ahead of Charl Scwartzel and Victor Dubuisson

(CNN) -- He's known as "Asian golf's John Daly" but Kiradech Aphibarnrat made a name for himself with his first European Tour victory on Sunday.

The 23-year-old won the rain-shortened Malaysian Open by one shot from former European Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari to become only the fourth Thai player to win on the circuit.

A burly big hitter, he is said to resemble Daly, who twice won major titles before his career went off the rails due to his various addictions.

Aphibarnrat, however, has no such off-course issues, though he has been struggling with a thyroid problem according to the Asian Tour website.

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"I'm so happy this week. I'm proud of myself and for my family. I almost won here a few years ago (he tied for third in 2010) and finally I made it. I'm so happy," he said.

The co-sanctioned tournament was reduced to three rounds due to bad weather, and the final day was also disrupted by storms.

Aphibarnrat had a one-shot lead after 15 holes when play was halted for two hours, but held his nerve after the resumption as he narrowly avoided a water hazard on 17 and and had to sink a 15-foot putt to par.

He was able to drop a shot at the last for the biggest victory of his career and a $458,330 first prize that put him top of the Asian Tour money list, with a 54-hole total of 13-under-par 203.

"During the suspension, I couldn't eat anything. I was so excited," said Aphibarnrat, who completed a second round of four-under 68 before closing with a 70.

"When I walked out, everything was shaking, even my voice. My caddy told me to just concentrate, just two more holes. I'm lucky that I played only 54 holes. Otherwise, I am so tired due to the weather and the golf course."

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Molinari watched on, knowing that if he had earlier done better than par at 18 he would have been in a playoff.

The Italian had made the halfway cut for the first time in six starts this year since returning from a worrying wrist injury, and was pleased with the improvements he has made under new swing coach Sean Foley -- who also works with Tiger Woods.

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"It's mixed emotions because I'm very happy to have a good week for the first time in a long time. The swing changes are starting to pay off, which is surprising because I thought it would take a lot longer," said the 32-year-old, who played on the 2010 Ryder Cup-winning team but has not claimed a European Tour title since earlier that season, when he triumphed twice.

"But I'm disappointed because I had a lot of chances on the back nine," he added, having carded 67. "The 18th is only the second fairway I missed all day which is very disappointing."

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel had been one shot behind Aphibarnrat at the start of the day, but finished tied for fourth with France's Victor Dubuisson after a 71.

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"It's a hard week with being on and off the course the whole time," said Schwartzel, whose fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen won the tournament last year.

"It's difficult to find any rhythm. I feel like I swung the club pretty well, but I didn't play that well today."

Schwartzel was a runaway 11-shot winner at the Thai Golf Championship in December, where Aphibarnrat tied for sixth and Daly missed the cut, but this time he had to settle for a minor placing as Denmark's Anders Hansen fired 66 to claim third..

"For some reason I was hitting short irons all over the shop," Schwartzel said. "Kiradech did well. I would've liked to have applied a bit more pressure on him."

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