Thongchai takes charge in Myanmar with opening 67
BY iseekgolf.com | Asian Tour | 2005 Myanmar Open | Round One | 24 Feb 2005
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee began his title defence of the Myanmar Open by cruising to his familiar place at the top of the leaderboard after an opening five-under-par 67 today.
The Asian Tour number one, who successfully defended his Carlsberg Malaysian Open title last week by leading from start to finish, produced seven birdies on the card against a double bogey at Yangon Golf Club in the US$200,000 championship which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
In-form Thongchai was joined at the top by former European Tour regular Matthew Cort of England, who enjoyed two spectacular chip-in birdies. Chinese Taipei’s Yeh Chang-ting could have eclipsed Thongchai’s start but double bogeyed his last hole for a 68 to share third place with compatriot Sung Mao-chang, who sank an eagle two, Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit and Swede Olle Nordberg.
Ranked 58th in the world, Thongchai is looking for another successful defence and aims to break into the top-50 by the end of next month which will earn him starts at the US Masters, the year’s first Major, and The Players Championship.
“I played well the whole day except for one hole. My drive clipped a tree branch on the ninth, landed in trouble and I couldn’t get out with the second shot. But I played nicely after that and I’m happy to be in position for my title defence,” said Thongchai, who was also victorious here in 2002 and was runner-up in 2003.
Such was his breathtaking form that all his birdies were from inside eight feet. Thongchai peppered the flags on the second, fourth and sixth with crisp iron play for easy birdies before running up a six on the par four ninth with an unfortunate break. But he bounced straight back with birdies on four of his next five holes.
“My concentration was good. I just went out to try and play a good round which I did. I like the back nine where you can shoot some good scores. I feel comfortable,” said former Thai paratrooper.
Cort played on the European Tour for three seasons before losing his playing rights last year. Starting from the 10th, the slightly-built Englishman enjoyed chip-in birdies on the 13th and seventh holes. But he acknowledged that Thongchai was the man to beat.
“As long as I can keep up or stay just ahead of Thongchai, I’ll be alright,” said Cort. “You have to try and keep the ball in play on this course and I used my three wood on quite a few holes to get into position,” said Cort.
Cort feels right at home in Asia as he has played in numerous co-sanctioned events with the European Tour in the region. “The grass is obviously different and you’ve got to deal with the heat. I drank six bottles of water which is a lot more than what I’m normally used to,” said the 30-year-old Cort.
Yeh, looking to reestablish himself in Asia after losing his card Japan, had looked certain of knocking Thongchai off the perch until a late blemish. Cruising at six under, Yeh hooked his drive on the 18th into thick woods and needed two shots to get out for a double bogey.
“On the front nine, I was really hitting my irons close to the flags for easy birdies,” said Yeh, who has one win each in Asia and Japan. “I lost a bit of momentum on the inward nine and just hit a poor drive at the wrong time,” said the 38-year-old.
Compatriot Sung, 27, holed his second shot from 130 yards on the second hole for an eagle as he put his name for the first time on the leaderboard of an Asian Tour event since his rookie year in 2004. “I had 130 yards to the pin and hit a nice wedge that took a few bounces before finding the cup,” said a delighted Sung.
“Hopefully this good start will carry on. I struggled for the whole of last season as I was going through some swing changes and have now only started to feel comfortable with my game. I feel like it is now time for me to try and get some good results,” said Sung, who won the team gold medal with Chinese Taipei at the 2002 Asian Games.
After winning inaugural Myanmar Open in 1996 and the second edition the year after, the evergreen Boonchu could well make it a grand 10th celebration at the event with a third victory here. However, he had to scramble early on in his round before shooting six birdies against two dropped shots.
“My chipping and putting saved me as I missed a few greens in regulation,” said the 48-year-old reigning Thai Open champion. “I see that Thongchai is up on the leaderboard again but it’s only the first day.”
Scotland’s Ross Bain, last year’s runner-up Andrew Pitts of the United States and Australian trio Scott Strange, Robin Hodgetts and Jason Dawes shot matching 69s for tied seventh place.
India’s Mukesh Kumar carded a 70 to lie three off the pace while newcomer Hla Myu shot a 72 to be the best Myanmar player after the first round. Shiv Kapur of India, touted as a rising star in Asian golf, opened with a 72.
In the race to qualify for the Asian Team to face Japan in April’s Visa Dynasty Cup, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat shot a 71 for tied 18th place. Currently on the bubble in eighth place on the ranking with the Myanmar Open being the last counting event, Mamat put himself in a good position as closest challenger Thammanoon Srirot returned a 77 and was in danger of missing the halfway cut here.
Source – Asian Tour