Pattaya, Thailand: May 5: Thailand’s Kwanchai Tannin rode a hot putter to an opening five-under-par 67 for the clubhouse lead in the rain-interrupted Singha Pattaya Open on Thursday.
Kwanchai, looking for his second win on the ASEAN PGA Tour after his victory in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Masters Indonesia, heads his uncle and former winner Prayad Marksaeng and American Corey Harris by a shot at Burapha Golf Club.
Half the field had still to finish their first round when play was halted due to darkness. Thai young gun Atiwit Janewattananond and veteran countryman Thammanoon Srirot had drawn level with Kwanchai on five-under-par after 17 and 16 holes respectively.
Defending champion Udorn Duangdecha of Thailand was forced to wait two hours 20 minutes to play his final hole (the ninth) because of the rain delay and bogeyed it for a 70 to lie three shots adrift. Playing partner
Jay Bayron of the Philippines, who was runner up to Udorn last year, dropped shots at the last two holes and also carded a 70.
The 25-year-old Kwanchai practices regularly on the course and used local knowledge to good advantage in an impressive round that included six birdies and just one dropped shot.
“My putting was really good today and I holed a long one at my last hole (the ninth) to save par, which was great,” said Kwanchai. “I practice here a lot and feel really comfortable on the greens – I can read them very well.
“I won on the ASEAN PGA Tour in 2009 and it would be good to win again – maybe this is my week.”
Veteran Prayad is feeling the benefit of a fitness regimen designed to keep him injury-free and competitive.
“I do a lot of stretching and breathing exercises and as a result I have more stamina and can play better, especially on hilly courses like this one,” said the 45-year-old Prayad, who has won multiple titles on the Japan and Asian Tours.
Prayad failed to fire on his opening nine but an eagle at the par-five fifth (his 14th hole) and two birdies coming home saw him soar up the leaderboard.
“The eagle saved me today – I did not hit my irons well on the front nine,” said Prayad. “At the fifth, I hit a rescue club 220 yards to three feet for the eagle.”
Bayron, runner-up in the first three events on last year’s ASEAN PGA Tour, was due to play in the US$1 million Maekyung Open on OneAsia this week but failed to get a visa for Korea in time and switched his plans.
“There have been a lot of holidays in the Philippines and my visa did not come through,” said Bayron. “I am happy to be here as I did well last year. I was going along well but bogeyed the final two holes. It would be good to win on the ASEAN PGA but the standard is high and it is hard to achieve a victory.”
The US$50,000 Singha Pattaya Open raises the curtain on the fifth season of the ASEAN PGA Tour with the 2011 schedule featuring an exciting blend of established and new events.
The region’s top professionals will have the opportunity to play for US$685,000, which is over US$100,000 more than last year, and compete in nine tournaments. (www.aseanpgatour.com)
Completed first-round scores (Thai unless stated)
67 – Kwanchai Tannin
68 – Prayad Marksaeng, Corey Harris (US)
69 – Pongthep Jaewchumnanchao, Atthaphon Prathummane, Piya Swangarunporn
70 – Blair Wilson (AUS), Annop Tangkamolprasert, Udorn Duangdecha, Jay Bayron (PHI), Rory Hie (INA), Prom Meesawat
72 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat
74 – Chawalit Plaphol