Wiratchant gets title defence underway with first round 66

Thaworn Wiratchant

Khon Kaen, Thailand; June 29: Defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant continued to surprise himself by claiming a share of the first round lead with Prom Meesawat and Udorn Duangdecha in the Singha E-San Open on Wednesday.

The Thai trio shot matching blemish-free 66s for a one-stroke advantage over Kwanchai Tannin in the third leg of the ASEAN PGA Tour. Unsung compatriots Korbkrit Namuangruk, Poosit Supupramai, Chawinroj Rungsrichai and Supakorn Utaipat are a further shot behind in joint fifth.

Veteran Thaworn beat countryman Namchok Tantipokhakul in a play-off last year for his second victory on the ASEAN PGA Tour after his triumph in the 2009 Heritage Melaka Classic despite struggling for length on the 7,382-yard layout at Singha Park Golf Club.

“I continue to surprise myself,” said the 44-year-old Thaworn, who made up for his lack of distance off the tee with a wizardly short game. “This is a long course and the fairways are soft – I was hitting four and five irons into a lot of the par fours.

“But I struck a lot of good iron shots and putted well. I started birdie, birdie and closed out the round with a birdie. It was a good start to the defence of my title.”

Prom, who already has one win on the ASEAN PGA Tour this year, birdied the last two holes to join Thaworn and Udorn on top of the leaderboard. “It was a great way to finish especially as I sank a 30-footer on the final hole,” said Prom, who won the Singha Pattaya Open last month.

The burly 26-year-old is hitting top form again after a period in the doldrums and has qualified for next month’s British Open. “It was windy out there which was good practice for the British Open,” said Prom. “I am happy with the way I am playing right now. My mind is clear and I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself.”

The colourful Udorn continued his love affair with Singha Park Golf Club after winning the Asian Tour’s King’s Cup over the layout last November. “I like the course a lot,” said Udorn, who also won last year’s Singha Pattaya Open on the ASEAN PGA Tour. “I putted really well today.”

The in-form Thai duo of Chawalit Plaphol and Prayad Marksaeng struggled to shake off fatigue after playing in Mizuno Open in Japan over the weekend and and shot 70 and 72 respectively.

Leading first round scores (Thai unless stated)

66 – Thaworn Wiratchant, Prom Meesawat, Udorn Duangdecha
67 – Kwanchai Tannin
68 – Korbkrit Namuangruk, Poosit Supupramai, Chawinroj Rungsrichai, Supakorn Utaipat
69 – Noppawut Lapanupat, Pornpong Phatlum, Pol Kemarat, Elmer Salvador (PHI), Sattaya Supupramai, Wisut Artjanawat, Chirat Jirasuwan, Chinnapat Tangtrongwattana

70 – Chawalit Plaphol, Chapchai Nirat
71 – Jay Bayron (PHI), Namchok Tantipokhakul
72 – Prayad Marksaeng