Xiamen, China, November 30: Asian Tour rookie William Harrold of England exploded into life in the opening round of the KG S&H CITY Asian Golf Championship by shooting a new course record of an eight-under-par 64 to lead by four on Thursday.
The 29-year-old Harrold, who came through the Qualifying School earlier in January, rode on his imperious form to sign for a bogey-free round highlighted by eight birdies at the Kaikou Golf Club’s West course.
Thai hotshot Namchok Tantipokhakul fired five birdies against a bogey to sit in second place at the US$350,000 tournament, which marked the first event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Chinese Golf Association (CGA) in China since 2008.
A host of seven players, including the likes of local prospects Liu Yan-wei, Ye Jian-feng and Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao, shared third place following matching rounds of 69 at the Asian Golf Championship.
Players from the China Tour will be eligible to take up associate memberships with the Asian Tour, with the top-five non-exempt players from the China Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season receiving spots into the Final Stage of the 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School.
Did you know:
- Harrold is playing in his first year on the Asian Tour. He earned his Asian Tour card in his third attempt at the Qualifying School earlier in January.
- Harrold is leading a round on the Asian Tour for the first time in his career. His course record of 64 also marked his best round on Tour so far this season.
- He is the only player in the field to return with a bogey-free round at the Kaikou Golf Club today.
- The Englishman enjoyed a joint runner-up finish in his Asian Development Tour (ADT) debut at the Combiphar Players Championship in Bali last month.
- Harrold hit a total of 16 greens and needed only 26 putts in his round of 64 today.
- Namchok continues his quest for a maiden win on the Asian Tour. He came close at the Indonesia Open last month before settling for tied-third.
- Placed 69th on the current Order of Merit, Namchok needs a good showing to break into top-60 to keep his Asian Tour card for the 2018 season.
- Namchok’s name in Thailand translates to “Lucky”.
- Liu Yan-wei is the highest-ranked Chinese player in the field this week. Ranked 1092nd on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at the start of the season, the 20-year-old Liu has risen to a current 650th position, thanks to commendable results on the Asian Tour, Asian Development Tour and the European Tour this season.
- Ye Jian-feng holds the record of being the youngest player at the age of 13 years and 20 days to play on the Asian Tour in 2004.
- Hung Chien-yao scored one of only two eagles in the opening round. He did it at the par-4 sixth.
- He is currently ranked 32nd on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, which virtually ensures his playing rights for 2018.
William Harrold (Eng) – First Round 64 (-8)
I drove well, so I had good chances into the greens. I hit good iron shots most of the time. I’ve also read the greens and putted really well.
In the practice round, you may have the impression that the pin placements are difficult. Today, the pins are placed on the flatter spots of the green. There were tricky ones, but the greens were slower today. So if you keep the ball on the low side of the hole, you can hit your putts more aggressively.
I made a mistake at the last hole, but I also made a big 45-feet putt across the slope for a birdie, which was nice.
Namchok Tantipokhakul (Tha) – First Round 68 (-4)
I feel great about the round. I hit many fairways today and putted well.
The course is not too easy, but it’s also not too difficult. The tee off is very important. I used a mixture of driver, three wood and hybrids. Overall, the course is not very long.
The putting is indeed difficult here, but if you position it well on the greens, you’ll get a good birdie chance.
For the game tomorrow, I will just continue to play at our pace and take the opportunity to have some fun. We have a good camaraderie in the flight, so similar to today, we’ll take it easy and make the best of our chances here.
Ye Jian-feng (Chn) – First Round 69 (-3)
It’s been so long since I last played on the Asian Tour! I feel really happy to be back again and even happier that I get to play on home soil. It feels like home to me this week. I have always enjoyed playing on the Asian Tour. It is where I started my career when I was younger.
I have waited a long time for this day to come. I also hoped for the Asian Tour to return to China. I made a lot of birdies today but I also made a lot of mistakes, especially on the par-threes.
I got really lucky with the birdie on the second hole. I hit it into the trees but it bounced back onto the fairway and I chipped it in from about nine feet. It was a good start. The course is in perfect condition. You just have to avoid the bunkers out there.
I changed my strategy a bit on the first hole. I wanted to use driver off the tee but it was downwind on the tee this morning so I used a three-iron instead. I hit my second shot to about one yard from the pin and made the putt.
My iron-play wasn’t really good on the par-threes today. It got tougher towards the end as the wind was picking up. I guess my mental game wasn’t as good. I wasn’t able to stay as focused as there were spectators following but it’s something I had to manage.
I could have avoided most of the mistakes today. The other reason why I played well today could also be due to my playing partner William Harrold. He played really well and I think I managed to rub off some good vibes from him.
We were just chatting and enjoying ourselves out there. We were very relaxed. It’s a good start for me nevertheless. I think it’s one of the best that I have had all this year.
I have planned to go to the Asian Tour Qualifying School next year but I still hope to get a good result this week.
Liu Yan-wei (Chn) – First Round 69 (-3)
You need to avoid the bunkers out there. I drove it into a few today and ended up making bogeys. On this golf course, you really need to hit fairways and greens. If not, it will be tough. Besides that, I am really happy with my round today.
I putted well overall although I missed a couple of short ones. Nothing really stood out today. I just think you really need to keep the ball in play on this golf course. Even if you missed, you got to miss it on the right position pin high.
You can’t be putting up and down the sloppy greens out there. This is really important out there. The pin positions were pretty sensible today. Some were still really difficult. You just got to manage it yourself and hit it to the right side.
I made all my birdies from within six to 12 feet so I am pretty happy with that.
Hung Chien-yao (Tpe) – First Round 69 (-3)
I thought I didn’t play too well today. I didn’t putt well. The greens are really tricky here. I thought it won’t be easy to handle after playing the practice rounds earlier.
I am feeling very relaxed this week actually, having already secured my card for next season. I made an eagle on the par-four sixth hole. I hit it right on the fairway but only to realise someone had played from that exact same spot earlier.
I was just aiming to hit the green and the ball just went in. I had hit my second shot from about 77 yards. I was quite lucky today I thought. I had a chip-in birdie from the bunker on the eighth hole as well. The bunkers are really difficult out there. You have to avoid it at all costs.
I am going to work on my putting now. Hopefully I can putt better tomorrow. I won a professional title in China before and I don’t really feel any stress coming to play here.
I didn’t think too much out there. I just want to play my best and enjoy my game out there.
Scores after round 1 of the KG S&H City Asian Golf Championship being played at the par 72, 7012 Yards Kaikou Golf Club course (am – denotes amateur):
64 – William HARROLD (ENG).
68 – Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA).
69 – LIU Yan-wei (CHN), YE Jian-feng (CHN), Teemu PUTKONEN (FIN), Ryann REE (USA), HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), Callum TARREN (ENG), YUAN Hao (CHN).
70 – LI Chao (CHN), HSIEH Chi-hsien (TPE), JIN Da-xing (CHN).
71 – HE Ze-yu (CHN), LI Xin-yang (CHN), Nicolas PAEZ (USA), LEE Chieh-po (TPE), Bowen XIAO (CHN), SHE Zi-han (CHN), OUYANG Zheng (CHN).
72 – XU Qin (CHN), Stephen LEWTON (ENG), Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA), Michael SKELTON (ENG), Marcus BOTH (AUS), HSU Hao-sheng (TPE).
73 – Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA), Yusuke MINAMOTO (JPN), SU Dong (CHN), LIEN Lu-Sen (TPE), Jakraphan PREMSIRIGORN (THA), TSENG Hong-sheng (TPE), Prom MEESAWAT (THA), YUAN Tian (CHN), Giwhan KIM (KOR), LIN Wen-tang (TPE), HAK Shun Yat (HKG), WU Hong-fu (CHN), Mathew WEBB (ENG), CHIANG Chen-Chih (TPE), CHEN Ding-gen (CHN).
74 – ZHUANG Zhu (am, CHN), Malcolm KOKOCINSKI (SWE), HAN Ren (CHN), ZHU Wei-yu (CHN), CHAN Shih-chang (TPE), Maverick ANTCLIFF (AUS), Sunil JUNG (CAN), Bryden MACPHERSON (AUS), Peradol PANYATHANASEDH (THA), ZHOU Guo-wu (CHN).
75 – Arie Irawan (MAS), George GANDRANATA (INA), CHEN Chang-ping (CHN), Sorachut HANSAPIBAN (THA), MA Cheng-yao (CHN), Johnson POH (SIN), CHEN Xiao-zhong (CHN), Nicholas FUNG (MAS), Quincy QUEK (SIN), Sangpil YOON (KOR).
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