Rose blooms early in Thailand

Thu 12 Dec 2013

Rose blooms early in Thailand

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Chonburi, Thailand, December 12: World number four Justin Rose produced a flawless seven-under-par 65 to grab the early first round lead by one shot from India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar at the Thailand Golf Championship on Thursday.
The Englishman, who won his first Major at the U.S. Open in June, snared seven birdies at the Amata Spring Country Club to mark a memorable debut in the US$1 million full-field Asian Tour tournament, which is featuring eight of the world’s top-50 players.
Bhullar, who won the Indonesia Open for his fifth Asian Tour title two weeks ago, was equally impressive as he charged into contention with an outstanding driving display where he hit all fairways en route to seven birdies against a lone bogey.
Title holder Charl Schwartzel of South Africa began his defence with a 68 which left a bitter taste in the mouth after he three-putted his last hole on the ninth for one of two bogeys of the day.
Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Marcus Fraser of Australia Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Marcus Fraser of Australia
Rose was delighted to come in with the clubhouse lead as he seeks out a second victory of the season which includes 11 other top-10s around the world.
“It was an early alarm call this morning at 4.30. Didn't enjoy that part but once I got out here to the golf course it was a perfect morning for golf, nice and cool to start with. Our group all birdied the 10th hole and I felt like we got off to a really nice start,” said Rose.
“It was a perfect morning to play golf, and the type of morning you wanted to capitalise on. My caddie did a really good job walking the course on Tuesday and told me the lines, and then in the Pro Am yesterday, I felt like I made enough birdies to feel comfortable with the conditions.  I feel like I'm reading the greens well. The greens are rolling true. I feel like I've got a good eye, good read for the greens, so that helps.”
The likeable Englishman missed only one green in regulation and let a few birdie attempts slip by. “My putting felt very sharp, especially for the first 12 or 13 holes,” he said. “But also, you have to stay out of the rough. If you do hit the driver poorly, you are going to struggle.  So, the key is to hit the fairways and you can be aggressive from there.”
With Schwartzel running away with the tournament last year with his 25-under-par 263 aggregate, Rose is fully aware that the par-72 Amata Spring course is susceptible to low scoring.
“I'm definitely aware this is a golf course that the guys have been able to take apart in the past.  I'm also aware that the second place score has been not that low, and that gives you a much better feel for the mean average on this golf course,” he said.
“Any player is capable of playing a great week if they get hot and run away with a tournament, whether it's a major championship or any golf tournament.  If someone is incredibly good that week, they can score low. Obviously, I got off to a great start. Who knows what the winning score will be, but you've just got to play one shot at a time, one hole at a time,” he said.
Bhullar was delighted to get into the title mix from the get-go and missed joining Rose for the clubhouse lead after watching a 15-foot birdie attempt stop just by the edge of the cup. It was his best round at Amata Spring where he finished 58th and 31st in the first two editions of the Thailand Golf Championship.
Charl Schwartzel of South Africa Charl Schwartzel of South Africa
“This is the first time I'm enjoying a bit of the low 60s. There was a margin of improvement but three more days to work on, and I think it's a great opportunity for the Asian Tour players to compete against the big names,” said the 25-year-old Indian, who is currently fourth on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
“It was a steady round. I hit about 15 greens in regulation and drove the ball really good. Hit 13 fairways out of 14, and my putting was pretty much consistent on the back nine, which was my back nine, the golf course front nine.”
The dashing Indian has had a topsy turvy run of form of late. After finishing last at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf in Australia, he went on to win the Indonesia Open title in the following week. He then missed the halfway cut at the Hong Kong Open last week and hopes the upward trend will continue in Thailand.
“I'm due for a good week,” he smiled. “(But) I'm glad that this is the last tournament of the season. This is my 13th straight event. I'm just dying to board the aircraft which is to New Delhi back home.”
But before he ends his season, Bhullar is hoping to enjoy the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best players this week. “We don't get that kind of chance very often, and whenever we do get a chance like at the CIMB (Classic), WGC (HSBC Champions) and this week, and we are all set to beat those guys,” he said.
Schwartzel, who has  won once and enjoyed two top-10s in his last three starts, was disappointed he dropped two shots with three-putt bogeys. “Yeah, felt like I hit the ball pretty decent. Just the putting let me down. I putted really poorly, two bogeys, two three-putts. But those are not major problems. I've been putting well for quite a long time. If I can keep hitting the ball decent and give myself chances, go work on the putting a bit, it's a decent start.  It's in red numbers and it's a long way to go,” said the world number 17.
Ends