Shah Alam: Thai maestro Thaworn Wiratchant renewed his Malaysian love affair as he fired an opening six-under-par 66 for the clubhouse lead at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters on Wednesday.
Thaworn, whose record 13 Asian Tour titles include two victories in Malaysia, carded one eagle, four birdies and a lone bogey at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club, a venue where he was victorious in 2001.
Marcus Both of Australia, who finished in tied fifth place in last year’s edition, was also six-under through 12 holes when play was suspended at 7.05pm while Michael Tran of Vietnam was on five-under with three more holes to play.
American Jonathan Moore, the reigning Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion, recovered from two early bogeys to shoot a 67 for second place while Javi Colomo of Spain was a further stroke back in the RM1.2 million (approximately US$395,000) Asian Tour event.
Highly rated Arnond Vongvanij and Prom Meesawat of Thailand, currently fifth on the Order of Merit, were bunched in tied fourth place on 69 with Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung, Bangladeshi newcomer Zamal Hossain and Jhonnel Ababa of the Philippines.
A total of 59 players will return on Thursday morning (7.30am) to resume their opening rounds after an afternoon thunderstorm disrupted play for over two hours.
Starting the day from the 10th tee, the unorthodox swinging Thaworn produced a fast start with an eagle on the par five 12th hole when his three wood approach shot hit the pin and landed close to the hole. He also birdied the other three par fives on the course.
“I’ve played many times on this golf course and I’ve never hit that green in two on 12. So I got lucky there. I made a lot of pars and then made birdie on 18 from a downhill putt. It is a difficult course. Downhill putts are really fast,” said the 45-year-old.
Moore, who earned his Tour card from his ADT success last year, bogeyed the first two holes but steadied the ship with eight birdies against one more bogey after a joke with his wife-cum-caddy Claire eased the early nerves.
“It is always good to be close to Thaworn. When you are near him, you know you are doing good. I was thankful to shoot my score. I was a little frustrated because it wasn’t how you start.
“But we were talking on the 12th hole and I told her ‘bad start, good finish’ and she said, ‘we have another 70 holes to go. I’m not scared are you?’ That helped and we went on from there to get the birdies,” said Moore.
Qualifying School graduate Colomo, who finished tied second at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic in April, said a summer break has rejuvenated his game as he sank five birdies on the card.
“My wife, Christina, and I took a break for 20 days in Spain last month without playing any golf. We are playing golf the whole year so I needed a big break. After the holiday, I had the energy to train,” said Colomo, whose wife is the bag this week.
With a hot putter in hand, the slightly built Spaniard reckons he has a good chance of winning his first title on the Asian Tour. “I played well from tee to green. I had a lot of birdie chances and didn’t make a single three putt. This is a tough golf course because the rough around the greens are very thick so I tried not to miss the greens,” said Colomo.
Defending champion Joonas Granberg of Finland struggled with a 78.
Leading first round scores
66 – Thaworn Wirathant (THA)
67 – Jonathan Moore (USA), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA)
68 – Javi Colomo (ESP), Jhonnel Ababa (PHI), Lu Tze-shyan (TPE)
69 – Arnond Vongvanij (THA), Nicholas Fung (MAS), Prom Meesawat (THA), Zamal Hossain (BAN)
70 – S. Sivachandhran (MAS), Shaaban HUSSIN (MAS), LAM Chih Bing (SIN), Danny Chia (MAS), Namchok Tantipokhakul (THA), Gavin Flint (AUS), Lim Eng Seng (MAS), Jaakko Makitalo (FIN), Panuwat Muenlek (THA), Thammanoon Sriroj (THA), Dodge Kemmer (USA)