Australia's Marcus Fraser is playing on a sponsor's invitation at the Thailand Golf Championship this week and is already repaying their courtesy with a solid three-under-par 69 to tie the first-round lead at Amata Spring Country Club.
Fraser, who has missed much of the season due to injury, chipped in from 25 yards on the demanding 18th for his fifth birdie of the day to find himself at the top of the leader board alongside Thailand's Thanyakon Khrongpha, Richard T. Lee of Canada and Lu Wei-chih of Chinese Taipei.
"It's pretty tough out there, that rough is pretty penal," said Fraser, who won the 2010 Ballantine's Championship in Korea. "Luckily I don't think I hit it in there all day, which was nice, so hopefully that continues for the week."
The 36-year-old, who is considered one of the finest putters on Tour, spent eight months away from the game due to a niggling wrist injury but reemerged at the Hong Kong Open in October where he finished in a tie for fifth after holding the third-round lead.
"I'm on a sponsors invite, so it was nice of them to do that. I enjoyed my time here last year. It's a great golf course and a great tournament," said Fraser, who followed up that Hong Kong result with a share of 15th on home soil at the ISPS Handa Perth International the following week.
The New South Wales native revealed that it was the Thailand Golf Championship's status as an Open Qualifying Series event that convinced him to make the trip from Australia.
Qualifying places at the 144th Open Championship, to be played next July at St Andrews, are up for grabs at Amata Spring and will go to the leading four players who finish inside the top-12 who are not already exempt.
"That was the decision behind coming up here, to try and get my spot," said Fraser, who has a best finish of tied 35th from four starts at The Open, the world's oldest Major championship.
"In an ideal world it would be nice to get one of the spots, so hopefully I can keep playing well and give myself a chance at the end of the week."