Kota Kinabalu: Vietnam’s Michael Tran carded a flawless first round six-under-par 65 to take the clubhouse lead in the US$75,000 Sabah Masters on Wednesday.
He leads the final event of the 2013/2014 ASEAN PGA Tour season by three strokes from Singaporean Mardan Mamat, who lost in a play-off here last year, Thailand’s Sattaya Supupramai and Filipino Mhark Fernando at Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club.
2011 champion Wisut Artjanawat of Thailand, his compatriot Pipatong Naewsuk and veteran Frankie Minoza from the Philippines, the champion in a distant 1989, opened their campaigns with matching 69s.
Heavy rain and lightning stopped play at 1.50 for two and a half hours meaning 23 players were unable to complete their rounds.
Tran is often in the spotlight as he is uniquely one of only two touring professionals from his country but he showed today that increasingly he is letting his game do the talking.
“I had a great day and am delighted to start so well. Nice start to the year!” said Tran, who learned to play the game when he was 13 at school in New Zealand.
Starting on the back nine, the 24-year-old made the turn in four-under with birdies on 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th. On the second nine, he finished off with birdies on seventh and ninth to lead an ASEAN PGA Tour event for the second time.
“I was comfortable on the course and made very few mistakes. I was lucky to finish before the rain delay,” added Tran.
Last June he led going into the final round of the PGM-ASEAN PGA Penang Classic. He eventually finished fourth for his best result on the ASEAN PGA Tour.
Minoza, aged 54, is one of Asia’s golfing greats and showed that today 25 years after having won this event by seven strokes at Sabah Golf and Country Club. The former Asian Tour number one, who spent much of his career playing in Japan where he claimed seven titles, is the oldest player in the field.
“It is great to be back and great to be in the hunt early on,” said Minoza, a two-time winner of the Philippine Open.
Defending champion Antonio Lascuna came in with a 71 while Thailand’s Kwanchai Tannin, who has already secured the ASEAN PGA Tour Order of Merit, fired a 72. Malaysian Nicholas Fung, the young star from Sabah who is one of the favourites to win this week, also shot 72.
Leading first round scores
65 – Michael Tran (VIE)
68 – Sattaya Supupramai (THA), Mhark Fernando (PHI), Mardan Mamat (SIN)
69 – Wisut Artjanawat (THA), Frankie Minoza (PHI), Pipatpong Naewsuk (THA)
70 – Keanu Jahns (PHI), Charles Hong (PHI), Supravee Phatam (THA), Nakarintra Ratanakul (THA)
71 – Antonio Lascuna (PHI), Ben Leong (Mas), Marvin Dumandan (PHI), Borworn Chaisri (THA)