Singapore, January 21: Singapore-based Australian Unho Park wielded a hot putter to grab a share of the opening round lead with an eight-under-par 64 at the weather-disrupted Players Championship on Wednesday.
Park fired nine birdies against a lone bogey for his career best 18-hole score which was matched by Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, who returned with a flawless round highlighted by eight birdies, at the Raffles Country Club’s par-72 Palm course.
Japan’s Taichi Nabetani, who was one of the 60 players to return on Thursday morning to complete their opening rounds, signed for a superb 65 to trail by one shot in third place at the US$100,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event. Play was disrupted by inclement weather earlier on Wednesday afternoon.
Park’s playing partners Kirby Pettitt of the United States and Thai youngster Suradit Yongcharoenchai signed for matching 66s to stay a further shot back in third alongside American Berry Henson, Japanese Masaru Takahashi and Itthipat Buranatanyarat of Thailand.
Home favourite Mardan Mamat and newly-turned professional Jerome Ng emerged as the highest-placed Singaporeans in tied-11th place following identical rounds of 68 in what is the first ADT event to feature in Singapore since the burgeoning Tour was inaugurated in 2010.
Despite closing the round with his only bogey of the day on ninth, Park was delighted to sign for a career-first 64 where he needed only 25 putts around the Palm course.
“I putted really well. I hit a lot of good shots and a couple of bad ones as well but I managed to recover well. That kept my momentum going out there. Usually when I hit bad shots, my round just goes down but I managed to get it together today,” said the 42-year-old Park.
His highlights of the day include a 30-footer birdie putt on 15 and a spectacular 40-footer putt for birdie on first.
“I have never really play well on this golf course before so I am happy with how I played today. I have never shot a 64 in a tournament before. It’s definitely a great boost for me heading into the next three rounds,” added the father of two.
Tirawat is determined to erase the heartbreak of missing out on his 2016 Asian Tour card at last week’s Qualifying School with a good showing at the Players Championship.
“I played with no pressure. I didn’t get any practice rounds prior to the tournament so I played with no expectations. I guess that was the key to playing well today. My iron-play was good and I putted really well,” said the 26-year-old Thai.
Mardan, playing on his home course this week, lamented a round which could have been better but took it in his stride as he capped a flawless front nine highlighted by four birdies.
He added two more birdies after the turn but slipped back after consecutive drop-shots on 15 and 16.
“It could have been a better round. I made some silly mistakes on my back nine where I three-putted 15 and hit it into the water on 16. But overall, I am pretty happy with where I stand. I played really well on my front nine. I hit the ball really good and I putted well,” said the experienced 48-year-old, who has won five times on the Asian Tour.
Ng, who coaches the National Team for Singapore, marked his card with five birdies against a lone bogey to trail by four shots.
“I played solid today, especially with my irons. I managed to hit a lot of greens as well. I just tried to keep it in play out there and I managed to give myself some birdie chances. My dad’s on my bag this week after a very long time. I felt really comfortable out there,” said the 26-year-old, who won his very first event as a professional on the local circuit last October.
The winner of the ADT’s season-opening Players Championship will earn a prized spot in the US$1 million SMBC Singapore Open which will take place at the Sentosa Golf Club from January 28 to 31 next week.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading first round scores:
64 – Unho PARK (AUS), Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA)
65 – Taichi NABATANI (JPN)
66 – Suradit YONGCHAROENCHAI (THA), Kirby PETTITT (USA), Masaru TAKAHASHI (JPN), Berry HENSON (USA), Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA)
67 – Antonio LASCUNA (PHI), Oskar ARVIDSSON (SWE)
68 – Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA), Ian ANDREW (INA), Sam CYR (USA), Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA), Mardan MAMAT (SIN), Danny MASRIN (INA), Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA), Jerome NG (SIN), LEE Corfield (ENG), Mathiam KEYSER (RSA)
69 – Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA), George GANDRANATA (INA), Frankie MINOZA (PHI), Kevin TECHKANOKBOON (THA), Quincy QUEK (SIN), Nicolas PAEZ (USA), John CATLIN (USA), Nirun SAE-UENG (THA), Scott VINCENT (ZIM), Bryce EASTON (RSA), Greg MOSS (USA), Poom SAKSANSIN (THA), Nick SHERWOOD (USA)
About the Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.