Bangkok, January 22: Korean maestro Kang Wook-soon fired a blistering nine-under-par 63 to take the first round lead at the US$300,000 Areeya Thailand Open today.
Kang, who has enjoyed enormous success in Asia with seven titles and two Order of Merit triumphs, has a two-shot cushion over Australian Adam Groom. Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant led the local assault with a 66 for tied third place with Australian newcomer Richard Moir.
Kang carded nine birdies during his bogey-free round, including five-in-a-row from the 10th hole at the Royal Thai Air Force Club. His superb effort set him up nicely to end a three-year title drought in the region. Ironically, his last triumph was at the 2001 Thailand Masters.
“My game was good and I hit some short irons close. All of my putts were
between five and 10 feet,” said Kang, who agonisingly missed out on a US PGA Tour card last December by one stroke.
Victory in Thailand would be scant consolation for the Korean as he could have been in the US this week competing alongside the world’s best players. He bogeyed his last hole with a three putt during the sixth and final round at the US Qualifying School and finished one rung outside the qualifying mark.
Groom, who represented Australia during his amateur days, displayed his growing potential with a 65 and needed only 23 putts in his round. Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit, one of only two local players to win the Thailand Open, carded a 68.
Taiwan’s Chen Chung-cheng shot the tournament’s first hole in hole at the fourth hole with a six iron. Unfortunately, his wonder shot came at the wrong hole as a luxury condominium and a car are on offer at two other par three challenges.
Leading first round scores
63 – Kang Wook-soon (Kor)
65 – Adam Groom (Aus)
66 – Richard Moir (Aus), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha)
67 – Paul Spargo (Aus), Uttam Singh Mundy (Ind), Olle Nordberg (Swe)
68 – Boonchu Ruangkit (Tha), Lu Wei-lan (Taiwan), Harmeet Kahlon (Ind), Danny Chia (Mal)
69 – Bryan Saltus (USA), Zane Scotland (USA), Gary Rusnak (USA), Kim Jong-duk (USA), Scott Barr (Aus), Thammanoon Srirot (Tha), Yutthaporn Prongsanthia (Tha), Attaphon Prathummanee (Tha), Aung Win (Myn), Mike Cunning (USA), Yang Yong-eun (Kor), Sushi Ishigaki (Jpn), Gerry Norquist (USA)