Manila: Himmat Rai and Thanyakon Khrongpha showed why they were the emerging stars of Asia when they shared the opening clubhouse lead at the weather-hit ICTSI Philippine Open on Thursday.
Rai of India and Thailand’s Thanyakon shot matching four-under-par 68s to take a one shot lead at the challenging Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
Veteran Wang Ter-chang of Chinese Taipei, who at the age of 49 is more than 20 years the senior of the clubhouse leaders, was tied in third with an in-form Berry Henson of the United States and Peter Karmis of South Africa.
Local hopes Marvin Dumandan, Mars Pucay and Jay Bayron were also bunched up in third in the US$300,000 Asian Tour tournament.
Play was suspended at 2.30pm due to lightning for one hour and 25 minutes which led to the suspension of the first round of the ICTSI Philippine Open. A total of 12 players will resume play at 6.45am on Friday.
Playing from the back nine, Rai turned in 32 highlighted by a huge 25 feet birdie putt on the 14th hole and credited his strong iron play where he found 15 greens.
“You need to keep the ball in play and that’s what I did. If you find the fairways, you have a very strong chance of scoring because the greens are excellent,” said the 23-year-old, who registered one birdie and one bogey in his homeward nine.
He was delighted to bounce back from last week’s Impian Classic in Malaysia on the Asian Development Tour where he was tied for the lead before shooting a final round 75 to finish in tied fifth place.
“There were a lot positive things that came out from last week. I’m beginning to feel competitive again and I learned a lot from that experience which I’m carrying with me this week,” added Rai, who is looking for his maiden Asian Tour victory.
Highly rated Thanyakon peppered the flags with acute iron play and was rewarded with six birdies which came from inside three feet.
“My iron shots were excellent. This is a very difficult golf course and you need to stay patient,” said the 20-year-old.
Veteran Wang, winner of the 1992 Philippine Open, rolled back the years as he stayed in touch with the clubhouse leaders. He said playing against the younger players on the Asian Tour will prepare him for the Senior Tour.
“This is a short golf course which requires accuracy and that suits my game because of my age. I’m weaker now compared to the younger players but it will be a good test as I’m preparing for the Senior Tour,” said the four-time Asian Tour winner.
Filipino Dumandan, who has won three titles on the local circuit, was unlucky not to go lower when numerous birdie putts lipped out.
“This is a great start for me, I could have gone lower but it is okay. I haven’t played much outside the country and this is my opportunity to play in an international setting,” said Dumandan, who traded four birdies against one bogey.
The Asian Tour players will wear black ribbons in this week’s ICTSI Philippine Open to show their respect to Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros who died last week.
Photos - Asian Tour
Asian Tour www.GolfGreedy.com