Image from Asian Tour
THONGCHAI TRAILS LEADERS BY ONE AT MAYBANK MALAYSIAN OPEN
Rhys Davies of Wales and Spaniard Ignacio Garrido set the first round pace at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Thursday but hot on their heels was Thai star and two-time champion Thongchai Jaidee.
Davies and Garrido posted matching seven-under-par 65s at the magnificent Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club while Thongchai, the reigning Asian Tour number one, stayed in touch with a 66 which was marred by two late bogeys.
Korea’s Kim Dae-hyun, an Asian Tour regular, also shot a 66 while countryman K.J. Choi was a further stroke back in the US$2 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Unheralded M. Sasidaran was the best Malaysian performer after a commendable 69 left him four strokes behind the leaders before a lightning storm forced a suspension of play at 6.40pm. Thirty players will return on Friday morning to complete their opening rounds.
Davies, who has enjoyed some measure of success on the Asian Tour over the past two seasons, enjoyed a flawless seven-birdie round, highlighted by a front nine 31. “That is the key for me. When I start to make some birdies I want to take advantage of the fact I am playing well in that moment and really push on and make as many as possible,” said the 24-year-old Davies, who won twice on the European Challenge Tour last year to earn his full card in Europe.
“It is scoreable on the front and there is a bit more length and trouble on the back nine but from my point of view, I try to play every hole as equally tough or easy – whatever way you want to put it - and try to have the same outlook every time that I step onto the tee,” he added.
A former Ryder Cup winner in 1997, Garrido got off to a bright start with an eagle three on his third hole where he sank a putt from 35 feet out. “I think it is a course where you can get round the front nine in two or three under if you play decent golf and then on the back nine you really have to fight. So I suppose if I am saying that three or four under is a good round here, then to shoot seven under is way beyond that,” said Garrido.
Thongchai, currently 44th in the world after a third place finish in Dubai and a quarter-final appearance at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, was eight under through 15 holes before tripping up with bogeys on the seventh and ninth holes.
“I had a very good game plan and my putting was good. I enjoyed it out there but the weather was so hot. My plan was to keep my concentration and that made it easy for me to attack the greens,” said Thongchai, who holed a 20-foot eagle on the par five fifth hole.
“It was a very good round except for the last three holes. If you miss the fairway here, it will be difficult to control your approach to the green because it was very firm today.”
Choi, a seven-time US PGA Tour winner, was disappointed with his bogey on the 18th hole. “I figured if I had a four-under today, it would be a good round and I did better than that so I can’t complain.
“The course set up was very good. If you are not alert, it is designed to be risk reward. You can’t miss the greens. The pins were well placed and very appropriate. It was a good set up today,” said the Korean, who carded six birdies.
The Korean star believes the steamy conditions will test players to the limit this week. “It was a little tiring at the end and I tried to stay cool as well as I could. In these conditions, you have to really focus, especially right before you hit a shot. You have to overcome the heat. If you let it affect you, it’ll be uphill for you,” said the Asian Tour honorary member.
Leading Round 1 scores:
65 - Ignacio Garrido (ESP), Rhys Davies (WAL)
66 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Kim Dae-Hyun (KOR)
67 - Alejandro Canizares (ESP), K.J. Choi (KOR), Mark F Haastrup (DEN), Mark Foster (ENG)
68 - Ross Bain (SCO), Rahil Gangjee (IND), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Robert Rock (ENG), Scott Barr (AUS), Thomas Bjorn (DEN)
69 - Darren Beck (AUS), Johan Edfors (SWE), Niclas Fasth (SWE), Noh Seung-Yul (KOR), S.S.P. Chowrasia (IND), Digvijay Singh (IND), Lu Wen-Teh (TPE), M. Sasidaran (MAS), Chapchai Nirat (THA), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Scott Strange (AUS),
Bae Sang-Moon (KOR)