Malaysian Open: Difficult few months for reigning champ Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Last Updated: 16/04/14 8:42am
Defending champion in Malaysia, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, is still emotional after losing his coach last year
Kiradech Aphibarnrat tees-up in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday keen to make a good defence of his Maybank Malaysian Open title.
The 24-year-old's victory in 2013 - his maiden European Tour title - helped him top the Asian Tour Order of Merit at the end of the year.
However, since that win the burly Thai has had to change his coach, following the death of Natpasit Chokthanasart.
And Aphibarnrat has admitted he was deeply saddened by the loss: "Losing my coach affected me mentally and affected my game.
"We spent a lot of time together. After he died, I couldn't sleep for a couple of days. It felt like I'd lost my father and all my confidence was gone.
"We talked about how we would win Major tournaments together. I didn't expect him to die at such a young age. He was only 58 years old.
"My new coach, Pompetch Saraputti, was one of the Thai national team players when I was young, and we had the chance to play together. He got an injury so he had to quit golf.
"He knows my game and swing very well, and he's made one small change in my swing which has been working for me. He will be here with me this week."
As for returning to the scene of his finest moment - the Kuala Lumpur Country Club - he said: "I have a lot of good memories here. I haven't been playing very well in the first three months because of my swing.
"But every time I tee off here, I get a lot of energy and good vibes to play well. I have a lot of confidence playing here.
"The win last year was an important factor in my life as it enabled me to play on the biggest tours, gain plenty of experience and the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world."
Among those taking part this week are former champions Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen, as well as Matteo Manassero and Thongchai Jaidee.
Watch all four days of the Maybank Malaysian Open live on Sky Sports 4 from 7.00am this Thursday to Sunday