Kiradech and Chia share early lead

Thu 20 Nov 2014

Kiradech and Chia share early lead

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Manila, November 20: Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat fired a flawless six-under-par 66 to share the early first round lead with in-form Malaysian Danny Chia at the on-going US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters presented by 918.com on Thursday.
Reigning Asian Tour number one Kiradech, who is playing for the first time as a professional in the Philippines, fired an eagle and four birdies at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club to charge into contention alongside Chia.
Smooth-swinging Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines carried the local charge with a bogey-free 67 for a share of third place alongside American Anthony Kang, Australians Terry Pilkidaris and Sam Brazel in what is the richest golf tournament in the Philippines.
Defending champion Liang Wen-chong of China and local star Angelo Que are all playing in the afternoon session.
Danny Chia with caddie Mohamed Ali. Danny Chia with caddie Mohamed Ali.
The 25-year-old Kiradech took full advantage of his length on the par five 18th hole where he sank a simple four-foot putt for eagle which saw him turn in 32. He fired two more birdies on the second and fourth holes to give himself a chance of winning a third Asian Tour victory.
“My ball striking was really good. It’s my first professional tournament in the Philippines and it has been good so far. It is near Thailand and I always feel at home whenever I travel to countries in Asia. It’s good to be back as I haven’t been here since my amateur days,” said Kiradech.
“I was actually hesitating if I should play this week because my knee is not feeling too good. I only decided on Monday actually. This is my 10th week in a row and I needed to rest but anyway I will still try my best and we will see how it goes.”
After finishing in the top-10 for the first time this season in Chiangmai last weekend, seasoned campaigner Chia kept up his good form in the opening round. When he missed last year’s tournament after undergoing surgery on his back, his caddie, Mohamed Ali, worked for Liang who won the Resorts World Manila Masters in a play-off against Prom Meesawat of Thailand.
Chia joked that his bagman nearly cost him some shots in a round that included seven birdies against a lone bogey.
“He nearly cost me a few shots,” laughed Chia. “I’m hitting it solid. I have been playing well. I found something in my swing last week but I’m not going to tell you what it was. It’s a secret.”
Juvic Pagunsan Juvic Pagunsan
Ranked 54th on the Order of Merit, Chia hopes to remain inside the top-60 to earn full playing rights for the 2015 season.
“It helps a lot to be on form at this time of the year. Hopefully I can keep up the good form and secure a good result this week. The fairways are quite wide so you have to drive it well and putt well to score here. There is not much rough ... I would say it will be very much a putting competition out there,” said Chia, who opened his day with three straight birdies.
Pagunsan, Asia’s number one in 2011, was delighted with his good start as he birdied three of the four par fives at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Masters course. “It’s a really good start. I just played well. I didn’t think about whether I shot birdies or bogeys. I just want to go out to play,” said Pagunsan.
“I just kept my focus on every shot, just tried to hit fairways and hit the greens and make two putts. If I get lucky, I would make a one-putt for birdie. It’s a good score, and it could have been better as I missed a few shots. I played here three times last week and if I have a chance to win, I’ll take it. I just need to keep my focus. It’s all about hitting good shots.”
The 36-year-old, who holds one Asian Tour victory won in 2007, has primarily plied his trade in Japan since becoming the region’s number one three years ago but plans to start competing more regularly on the Asian Tour again from next season.
“Next year, my plan is to play more on the Asian Tour. I’ve discussed this with my manager and we’ll play the Asian Tour and Japan Tour. That’s my plan."
Sponsors of the Resorts World Manila Masters include Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club, Bally Technologies, Aristocrat, International Gaming Technology, Renoir Implementation Services, Marriott, Philippine Airlines, Maybank, PLDT and Avis.