A week after watching young compatriot Rahil Gangjee clinch a superb win in Beijing, Johl, searching for his elusive first Asian Tour title, produced a bogey free card at Macau Golf and Country Club and bettered the previous mark of 63 held by Adam Fraser of Australia
Irish star Padraig Harrington said he played “boring golf” en route to a 69 while two-time former champion Zhang Lian-wei of China couldn’t drive for show or putt for dough as he scrambled to a 70.
Johl’s stunning round included seven birdies and an eagle and was one stroke better than playing partner Nico Van Rensburg of South Africa. Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant returned a 64 while Taiwanese veteran Wang Ter-chang, Lin Wen-tang and American Jason Knutzon ended the day three back in joint fourth position.
“It was a lot fun,” said Johl, whose best finish on Tour was a runner-up outing at last year’s Maekyung Open in Korea. “Nico set the pace with a great start and then my round got going when I holed out from 62 yards for an eagle two on the eighth hole. The key today was that I did not come in my own way. I let it happen and just played well.”
A firm advocate of yoga, Johl is not taking his superb start for granted in his title bid. “Golf is a funny game and I’m not expecting anything. But it (a win) has to come. I’m doing everything right and have all the ingredients ?K my swing is good, I??m doing yoga, mind training and physical training. It has to come.
“It was good to see Rahil win last week (at the Volkswagen Masters – China). He has a great future. The Asian Tour is going in the right direction with new winners emerging and I’m happy to see that,” added Johl, who is a board member of the Tour.
Van Rensburg enjoyed a sizzling start, going birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie in his opening four holes and was six under through six holes. A bogey on nine put the brakes on his game but he finished strongly with three more birdies on 13, 15 and 18.
The big South African is coming off a lengthy injury spell following a wrist surgery in 2002 and was happy to be on the leaderboard. “I couldn’t play golf for six months and that was a real nightmare,” said Van Rensburg, a three-time winner in Asia.
“I started playing regularly again last year and I’m slowly regaining my confidence. It was great today. I got off the blocks fast and Amandeep was playing well too. The bogey on nine took away my momentum. It was unfortunate as my drive hit a cart path and landed in a bunker. It was just perfect conditions for scoring this morning.”
Harrington, ranked eighth in the world, parred his opening nine holes before shooting three birdies against a lone bogey on his inward journey.
“I’m not pleased, but it is by no means a disaster start. I just played too steady. I hit it to 15 to 20 feet on every hole on the front nine and didn’t make anything. I was just steady, boring really. I needed to be a little more aggressive on some shots. I was just getting frustrated as I was hitting great putts but not finding the hole. I made just three birdies. On good conditions this is not enough,” said the Irishman.
“If I start holing a few putts, I might start holing a few more 20 footers. That’s the way it goes some days. You have to stay patient and these tournaments are 72 holes. I tried to be aggressive today but it didn’t work out.”
Zhang, a popular winner here in 2001 and 2002, was sluggish with his play as errant drives denied him birdie opportunities. “I didn’t drive well and my putts were always short of the hole. I’ll have to try and catch up tomorrow as the scores are really low,” said the Chinese ace, who made his US Masters debut last month.
Last year’s runner-up Scott Barr of Australia enjoyed a good start to his Macau Open campaign with a 66 to lie four off the lead. He turned in 37 but romped home in 29 with six birdies.
Last week’s winner Rahil endured a nightmarish time on the tricky par threes at Macau Golf and Country Club, dropping double bogeys on the 11th and 14th to shoot a 73.
Leading round one scores
62 – Amandeep Johl (IND)
63 – Nico Van Rensburg (RSA)
64 – Thaworn Wiratchant (THA)
65 – Wang Ter-chang (TPE), Lin Wen-tang (TPE), Jason Knutzon (USA)
66 – Harmeet Kahlon (IND), Scott Barr (AUS), Keith Horne (RSA), Vivek Bhandari (IND), Chris Williams (RSA), Sushi Ishigaki (JPN), David Kang (KOR), Uttam Singh Mundy (IND)
67 – Eddie Lee (NZL), Kenichi Ryu (JPN), Angelo Que (PHI), Terry Pilkadaris (AUS), Simon Yates (SCO), Clay Devers (USA), Weng Young-tien (TPE)
68 – Poh Eing Chong (SIN), Somkiat Srisanga (THA), Jerome Delariarte (PHI), Kao Bo-Song (TPE)
Rafael Ponce (ECU), Unho Park (AUS), Prom Meesawat (THA), Lu Wen-teh (TPE), Lu Wei-lan (TPE)
About the Macau Open 2004
The Macau Open commemorates its 7th year starting in 1998. It is sponsored by the Macau Sport Development Board. Participating sponsors include the Macau Government Tourist Office, Holiday Inn Macau as the official Hotel and supplier sponsors, Macao Coca-Cola Beverage Co., Ltd., Spa Philosophy, Bridgestone as the official ball supplier and Carlsberg as the official beer. The Macau Open has been held at the Macau Golf and Country Club ever since its inception. Octagon Greater China is the event manager of the Tournament.