ADT: Trio seize opening lead

Sungai Buloh, Selangor, Malaysia, February 15: Thailand’s Panuwat Muenlek signed for a flawless eight-under-par 64 to grab the opening round lead with local hope Mohammad Wafiyuddin and Korea’s Youngjea Byun at the PGM Panasonic Malaysia Championship on Wednesday.

Qualifying School graduate Byun, who had arrived one week earlier to practise at the Kelab Rahman Putra, fired one eagle and seven birdies against a bogey to match the opening efforts of Mohammad and three-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner Panuwat.

The leading trio hold a one-shot advantage over American Lexus Keoninh, who sits in fourth place on his own following a spectacular birdie-birdie-eagle finish to his round, at the RM250,000 (approximately US$55,000) ADT event.

A host of five players, including American Brett Munson and Malaysia’s Sukree Othman, signed for matching 67s to stay three shots off the pace in fifth place at the event, which is the second leg of the ADT schedule this season.

Mohammad, who notched his first top-five finish on the ADT at the season-opener last month, soared with an eagle on his first hole 10and added three birdies to turn in 31.

He dropped a shot on second but recovered swiftly with a birdie on third. He then closed with three straight birdies to set a new personal 18-hole record for himself and mark his best round ever on the ADT since turning professional in 2015.

“I hit the ball good. I got off to a superb start and managed to ride on the momentum from there. I was able to hit it close to the pin today and leaving myself with putts from one club length.

“My iron-play was solid. I felt very confident out there. I will stick to the same game plan tomorrow,” said the 26-year-old Malaysian, who sank a 20-footer eagle putt on the 10 after finding the green in two.

Keoninh, playing in his second year on the ADT, was thrilled to get his season off to a solid start.

“I was hoping for a good start and I am glad I got it. I just kept trying to hit good shots out there. I stayed positive and gave myself a lot of chances. This is the best round I have shot on the ADT since I started playing here last year.

“I had a great finish to the round. I hit a hybrid off the tee on 18 and then a three-wood from about 270 yards before holing a 5-footer eagle putt,” said the 25-year-old American, who is chasing for a breakthrough win on the secondary circuit.

The leading Malaysian professional, not otherwise exempt, will receive an invitation to participate in the Panasonic Open Japan, a tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour, from April 20 to 23.

The winner of the PGM Panasonic Malaysia Championship will take home a winner’s prize purse of about US$9,500 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.

Like all other ADT events, the tournament will also offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points to the top six players and ties based on a sliding scale.

The ADT, which is celebrating its seventh season this year, will continue to reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2018.

For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.

About 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.