Schwartzel hits 65 for lead

Thitiphun one shot behind at Thai event

CHON BURI : South Africa's Charl Schwartzel posted a seven-under-par 65 in the opening round to take a one-shot lead at the Thailand Golf Championship yesterday.

Charl Schwartzel, left, is one shot ahead of Thitiphun Chuayprakong after the opening round of the Thailand Golf Championship yesterday. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

Determined to go one better than his second place in the inaugural edition last year, the 28-year-old golfer made seven birdies in a bogey-free round at Amata Spring Country Club.

Young Thai Thitiphun Chuayprakrong eclipsed many of the world's top players with a superb 66 to outscore reigning Masters winner Bubba Watson (68), Sergio Garcia (69) and title-holder Lee Westwood (70).

Daniel Chopra of Sweden and Javi Colomo of Spain shared third place, two shots off the pace in the US$1 million Asian Tour event.

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion who is looking for his first win of the year, was more than happy with his solid round where his swing was back to what it was a year ago.

"Overall, I think I played well. I gave myself some good chances and played a solid round of golf," said Schwartzel, who started last year's edition with a 69 before finishing five shots behind Westwood after four rounds."I did not miss many fairways which was a key with such high rough.

"It's nice to be in a good position. But it's too early to predict. No one can win the title after round one.

"I feel if I keep playing like I am playing, I will get the result I am looking for."

Thitiphun, who finished third at the Macau Open in October, enjoyed his bogey-free round with six birdies. The 20-year-old credited his driver and irons for the good round which featured two long birdie putts.

"I had a good game plan today, trying to give myself a chance," said Thitiphun who is in his second year on the tour.

"Luckily, it was not windy in the morning and the pin positions were quite easy for me."

Having retained his tour card for next year after a good result in Khon Kaen last week, Thitiphun felt at home at Amata Spring and hoped to make another low score in today's second round.

"Shooting three-under in the second round would be okay for me," said the Asian Tour's 44th ranked player.

Watson, who is making his Thailand debut, carded a 68 for tied fifth with four players including Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

The left-hander, who made a second-hole eagle, seven birdies and one bogey, said he had a solid round but made a few mistakes.

"The golf course is set up well and it is all about hitting the driver well. If I can put everything together, I will have a good chance on Sunday," he said.

Asian Tour's money leader Thaworn Wiratchant shot a 69 for tied 10th with a large group of players including Thongchai Jaidee, Prom Meesawat and Garcia.

Bidding for his fourth title this year, the 45-year-old said that his tee shots were excellent the whole day, missing only one fairway.

He was satisfied with his result because the course is not suited his game.

"I am happy with my round," said Thaworn who is seeking his second Asia's money title after his 2005 success.

"One of my best shots of the day was a 40-yard chip-in birdie at the seventh."

Garcia had a roller-coaster round of six birdies against one bogey and one double bogey for a 69.

The Spaniard played some good golf but some bad shots including the 16th-hole double bogey cost him a better result.

"It was not a bad round. It was much better than last year," said Garcia who struggled with a 76 in last year's opening round. "It's tougher in the afternoon. It's a bit windy out there and the greens got bumpier."

Westwood suffered a final-hole bogey en route to a 70 while Chawalit Plaphol, who had the best result among Thais last year with a fourth-place finish, posted a 78.

Arnond Vongvanij, who won the King's Cup in Khon Kaen on Sunday, was forced to withdraw at the 11th hole due to a back injury.

The 23-year-old said that he injured his back during the pro-am event but decided to give himself a try in the first round because he had been looking forward to the star-studded tournament.

LEADING FIRST ROUND SCORES

65 _ Charl Schwartzel (RSA)

66 _ Thitiphun Chuayprakong (THA)

67 _ Daniel Chopra (SWE), Javi Colomo (ESP)

68 _ Bubba Watson (USA), Mo Joong-Kyung (KOR), Park Hyun-Bin (KOR), Masanori Kobayashi (JPN), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)

69 _ Wade Ormsby (AUS), Darren Beck (AUS), Annop Tangkamolprasert (THA), Serigo Garcia (ESP), Luke List (USA), Prom Meesawat (THA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Thawon Wiratchant (THA), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Juvic Pagunsan (PHP), Jyoti Randhawa (IND)

Selected scores:

70 _ Darren Clarke (NIR), Lee Westwood (ENG), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN)

71 _ Hunter Mahan (USA)

About the author

columnist
Writer: Kittipong Thongsombat
Position: Reporter