Date: March 15, 2013
Author: OneAsia

Griffin on pace at Thailand Open

Australian Matthew Griffin, a OneAsia regular who made his professional breakthrough with victory at the Charity High1 Resort Open last year, made a cold start to the Thailand Open, but recovered with a hot putter to be one shot off the pace. “I made some really long putts to stay in it, and and then on the back nine I played a lot better, hitting it close,” he said. “I have a lot more confidence now because I know I am capable of winning — but there is a long way to go.” Japan&aposs Koumei Oda fired 11 birdies for an eight-under-par 64 on Thursday to grab a one-shot lead after the opening round of the U.S. $1 million event at Thana City Golf & Sports Club. The field tamed the relatively short 6,336 metre (6,930-yard) Greg Norman-designed course on the eastern outskirts of the capital, with six players sharing second place and nearly 100 players under par. This tournament, and the upcoming Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia PGA Championship (March 28-31), is co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the JGTO and earnings count towards both Orders of Merit. The field is one of the strongest Asia-Pacific line-ups ever gathered outside Japan, with over 40 tournament winners boasting more than 200 titles between them. Oda, a five-time winner on the Japan Tour — although not since 2011 — parred the first and then went on a six-hole birdie blitz before bogeying the eighth and making the turn at 31. Five birdies on the way home were offset by a double bogey on the 15th for one of the best rounds of his career. “I have had 10 birdies before, but not 11,” said Oda, 34, who started playing golf as a seven-year-old. “The secret is I putted very well — just 26 putts for the round.” Behind him, the chasing pack represented the young and the old, the experienced and the novices of both tours. Koreans Hwang Jung-gon and Cho Min-gyu, good friends who train together on the Japan Tour, set the pace from the first flight of the day in blistering style. Hwang, a two-time winner in Japan despite being only 19, birdied the first four holes and added three more on the back for a bogey-free round, while Cho, 24, a winner in Japan in 2011 had eight birdies and a bogey. “It was very hot, but I was patient and made no big mistakes. Bogey free is always good,” said Hwang. “I managed to hit my tee shots very well and it is important to be on the fairway here if you want to make birdies,” added Cho. Defending champion Chris Wood of England and Irishman Padraig Harrington were well-placed in joint 11th place, three shots off the lead. “I shot five under in the first round last year, so hopefully that is a good sign,” said Wood, playing the course without the benefit of a practice round. “The good thing is that everything is in front of you, so you can see the hole unfold from off the tee. That makes it a little bit easier.” Harrington was ruing dropped shots on a course he said was “there for the taking”. “Five under is a good start but it could have been better,” said the three-time Major winner who double-bogeyed the 17th. “I&aposm a bit disappointed, but you can&apost win a tournament on Thursday. Australian David McKenzie, at 45 one of the older players in the field, was also surprised with his 65. “I won a local tournament back home in January, but actually since then I haven&apost been playing so well,” he said. “My practice round was rubbish, so I&aposm really pleased to be in this position. I&aposm certainly not thinking about a win, but doing well would make me give some serious thoughts to the rest of the year.” At the other end of the experience spectrum, American John Young Kim, 21, who finished third at OneAsia&aposs first-ever Q-SChool held in California in January, was soaking up the experience after shooting nine birdies for his 65. “I had no expectations, so to be in this position is fantastic. I have never played in a big tournament like this, so my aim is to try to get some experience and try to get comfortable. Anything more than that is a great result.” Best of the Thais was Wisut Artjanawat, based at the Thana City course since 2006, who was kicking himself after a costly double on his last hole saw him finish at six under. “I made a really bad mistake. I pulled my drive left and then hit out into the fairway. That bit was ok, but then I missed the green with my third shot. It was only 90 yards but I hit it into a bunker. That was so bad. I hit it out of the bunker and made two putts. Also at six under were Australian Scott Strange, winner of the Order of Merit in OneAsia&aposs first season in 2009, and Thailand-based Scot Simon Yates.