Bangkok, May 18: Local prospect Rattanon Wannasrichan flew his country’s flag high by taking a share of the first round lead with Janne Kaske of Finland in the Thailand Open on Thursday.
The leading duo signed matching nine-under-par 62s to lead by two shots from Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand in the US$300,000 event, which is making a return onto the Asian Tour schedule after an eight-year lapse.
Thai veteran star Prayad Marksaeng posted a fine 65 to trail by three shots alongside Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, who was bogey-free at the scenic Thai Country Club.
Former Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand signed for a 66 while American David Lipsky, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, shot a disappointing 74.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia signed for a 69 to lie seven shots off the pace.
The Thailand Open, inaugurated in 1965, is also the first leg of the newly launched Panasonic Swing, which provides a bonus pool across five designated tournaments.
Did you know?
- Rattanon and Kaske’s opening 62s were the lowest 18-hole scores on the Asian Tour so far this season. However, preferred lie was in operation today.
- Rattanon needed only 20 putts. He had 12 consecutive one-putts from the 16th hole. He started his round from the 10th hole.
- The 21-year-old Rattanon is chasing for a breakthrough victory on the Asian Tour. He has enjoyed two top-five results in six starts this season. Rattanon is a one-time winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
- Kaske missed out on his 2017 Asian Tour card at Qualifying School in January. He is playing his first Asian Tour event of the year on a sponsor’s invite this week. He is also a two-time winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which he is playing on this year.
- The 31-year-old Kaske is also the first player from Finland to win on Asia’s development circuit, which was launched as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour in 2010.
- The Thai Country Club is the home course of Panuphol, who is placed 11th on the current Order of Merit. He is enjoying one of his best seasons so far with two top-10 finishes in Bangladesh and Malaysia.
- Panuphol, who turned professional 10 years ago at a young age of 14, won his first title on his domestic circuit last month, just days after his girlfriend died in a road accident.
- Prayad claimed one of his 10 Asian Tour victories at the Thai Country Club in 2007. He is also a former winner of the Thailand Open in 2013.
- Prayad became the second oldest player to win on the Asian Tour at 50 years and 357 days when he emerged triumphant at the SMBC Singapore Open earlier in January.
“My game has been feeling good since finishing fourth in Chinese Taipei last month. The course is playing soft due to the rain yesterday and it was an advantage for me. It’s easier to hit iron shots because you can attack the pins and try to hit it closer.” – Rattanon Wannasrichan, 21.
Janne Kaske (Fin) – First Round 62 (-9)
It was pretty awesome out there. I got off to quite a slow start but I birdied the tough par-three sixth hole and made an eagle on the par-five seventh hole. Things started to roll for me after that. I had a lot of looks from like 10 to 20 feet all day and I felt like I was making all of them. It’s definitely one of the best putting rounds I have ever had.
I didn’t make a super long one but I made a whole lot of makeable birdie looks. I had a great drive on seven and then a six-iron left and right in line with the pin from about eight feet. I made the eagle putt and that really got things going.
It was just solid. I think this golf course suits me pretty well. It’s been soft so it’s playing a little bit longer. I hit it quite far and I am still getting wedges in my hands almost on every hole. I can set up a lot of birdie opportunities for myself if I drive the ball well.
I live in Bangkok and I play here quite often. I think I have got like 15 rounds here overall. I am used to being out there and I’ve shot some low scores here before. It feels great to be playing well, especially coming in to the tournament as a sponsor’s invite.
To be honest, I haven’t been playing well for months but I sort of got my hopes up a little bit at the beginning of the week. I had a few practice rounds and I felt like I found something in my game again. I knew I have the capability to shoot a low score out there.
Everything needs to be good to shoot a 62 obviously but I still made bogeys out there. I made a mistake on the 18 and finish the round with a bogey which was disappointing. I wasn’t thinking much out there. I saw the leaderboard but didn’t bother about how much lead I had and all. Looking forward to the next three rounds now!
Rattanon Wannasrichan (Tha) – First Round 62 (-9)
I putted solid today. I sank a 15-footer for birdie on my last hole on nine which was my longest putt. I only two-putted on two holes. The rest of the holes I needed only one putt each. The putter was really hot. I needed only 20 putts in total.
My game has been feeling good since finishing fourth in Chinese Taipei last month. The course is playing soft due to the rain yesterday and it was an advantage for me. It’s easier to hit iron shots because you can attack the pins and try to hit it closer.
This is my best ever 18-hole score on the Asian Tour. I am really pleased with how I played. I will keep to the same game plan and try to hit my iron shots on the greens. I play this course only about once every year. Course knowledge is not really an advantage for me but I do feel comfortable every time I come to play on this course.
Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) – First Round 64 (-7)
It was a hot front nine. I hit the ball good, rolled it well and I took all my chances. I chipped in from 20 yards for birdie on the 10th hole which was very good too. The day kind of died off a bit and then I birdied the par-five 14the hole. I missed a very good chance on 15 for birdie. I made a mistake on 16 for bogey, hit a bad shot and didn’t get up and down. Overall, eight birdies and only one drop shot, so I am happy.
I was just having fun out there. I got off to a great start, with four birdies in a row from the second hole. I was enjoying the golf course, the weather and everything out there. This has become my home course just three weeks ago actually. The course feels differently from what I am used to because it has been raining a lot these few days.
But having said that, I feel very comfortable when I play on this course. I love it. I kept the ball in play and I took a lot of chances. I just hit a lot of good shots and putted well. Same thing for me tomorrow, I will just go out and enjoy the game, have fun and keep the ball in play.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) – First Round 65 (-6)
The game’s feeling good. I hit the ball very good and I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities out there. I putted very well too. I holed about four to five crucial putts which helped. I started pretty solid. I birdied the first and third hole so that gave me a lot of confidence and some momentum heading into the round.
The course is in a good shape. The greens are rolling smooth. I am looking forward to the next three days. I think my longest putt was on my first hole on 10 where I nailed a 25-footer. That gave me a good feeling for today. I sank a 12-footer for birdie on 17 as well. It was a crucial putt downhill right to left. It was a good putt.
My best birdie would be on the fourth hole. I hit a driver off the tee and then a six-iron to about 20 feet before making a little curler from right to left. You need to give yourself good looks on the greens to score on this course. As long as you’re on the correct side of the flag and get to a good start, you should be able to do well.
It’s a good to see such a prestigious event back on the Asian Tour schedule. Thailand is the home of a lot of good Asian Tour players and it always gives us a lot of happiness playing in this part of the world.
Scores after round 1 of the Thailand Open being played at the par 71, 7097 Yards Thai CC course (am – denotes amateur):
62 – Janne KASKE (FIN), Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA).
64 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA).
65 – Prayad MARKSAENG (THA), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND).
66 – Danthai BOONMA (THA), Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA).
67 – Terry PILKADARIS (AUS), Scott BARR (AUS), Sihwan KIM (USA), Jaturon DUANGPHAICHOOM (THA), Keith HORNE (RSA), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA).
68 – Tawan PHONGPHUN (THA), Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA), Poom SAKSANSIN (THA), Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA), Micah Lauren SHIN (USA), James BYRNE (SCO), Akedanai PONGHATHAIKUL (am, THA).
69 – Himmat RAI (IND), Piya SWANGARUNPORN (THA), Simon GRIFFITHS (ENG), Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA), LIU Yan-wei (CHN), Niall TURNER (IRL), Parathakorn SUYASRI (am, THA), Teemu PUTKONEN (FIN), Mitchell SLORACH (SIN), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Scott HEND (AUS).
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