Manila, November 20 - Singapore’s veteran Mardan Mamat and Daisuke Kataoka of Japan overcame gusty winds to post seven-under-par 65s and share the first round lead at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters presented by 918.com on Thursday.
The 47-year-old Mardan, a three-time Asian Tour winner, was rock solid at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club, hitting all but one green in regulation which yielded eight birdies against a lone bogey.
Kataoka, 26, needed only 25 putts in his seven-birdie round as he put himself in contention for a maiden Asian Tour victory in what is the richest golf tournament in the Philippines.
Reigning Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and seasoned Malaysian campaigner Danny Chia carded 66s to trail by one while 2011 Order of Merit champion Juvic Pagunsan led the Philippine charge with a 67 to share fifth place with American Anthony Kang, Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao and Aussie duo Terry Pilkadaris and Sam Brazel.
Indonesian George Gandranata continued his run of strong rounds by coming in with a round of 70, good for a tie for 20th place on the leaderboard, while compatriot Rory Hie, who needed 4 shots more for the round, will have to work hard tomorrow to make the cut, as he's currently in a tie for 73rd.
Title holder Liang Wen-chong of China birdied two of his last three holes to salvage a 71 while last year’s runner-up Prom Meesawat of Thailand, the highest ranked player in the field, settled for a 73.
Languishing in 74th position on the Order of Merit, Mardan, winner of the 2012 Philippine Open, was delighted with his ball striking in tough afternoon conditions. “I hit the ball solid from tee to green and managed to hole some putts. It’s not easy out there, especially on the front nine where it was really windy,” said Mardan, who finished tied 25th at the Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT last week.
“I’m trying to not think about keeping my card. It’s not the end of the world for me if I don’t make it into top-60 on the Order of Merit. I want to enjoy my golf. It’s always nice to come back to the Philippines, especially since I won the Philippine Open two years back. I’ve got nice memories here.”
Kataoka, who has two previous top-10s in the Philippines, feels right at home in his Resorts World Manila Masters debut. “I seem to score well in the Philippines,” said the young Japanese.
“My tee shots were always on the fairway and second shots were always on the green. And my putting was very good. I had good touch today.”
Big-hitting Kiradech, playing for the first time as a professional in the Philippines, fired an eagle and four birdies at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Masters course to move into contention for a third Asian Tour victory.
The 25-year-old Kiradech took full advantage of his length on the par five 18th hole where he sank a simple four-foot putt for eagle. “My ball striking was really good,” said the burly Thai. “I was actually hesitating if I should play this week because my knee is not feeling too good. I only decided on Monday to play but I will try my best and we will see how it goes.”
Chia missed last year’ s inaugural Resorts World Manila Masters through an injury layoff but his caddy Mohamed Ali worked for Liang, who won the title via a play-off. The Malaysian joked that his bagman nearly cost him some shots in a round that included seven birdies against a lone bogey.
“He nearly cost me a few,” laughed Chia, who is currently ranked 54th on the Merit list and was top-10 in Chiangmai last week. “I’m hitting it solid. I have been playing well. I found something in my swing last week but I’m not going to tell you what it is. It’s a secret.
““It helps a lot to be on form at this time of the year. Hopefully I can keep up the good form and secure a good result this week.”
Smooth-swinging Pagunsan was bogey-free as he stayed within touching distance of the leaders. He birdied three of the four par fives and believes he has a good chance of securing a home victory.
“It’s a really good start. I didn’t think about whether I shot birdies or bogeys. I just wanted to go out to play,” said Pagunsan. “I kept my focus on every shot, just tried to hit fairways and hit the greens and make two putts. If I got lucky, I would make a one-putt for birdie,” said Pagunsan.
“I played here three practice rounds here last week and if I have a chance to win, I’ll take it. I just need to keep my focus. It’s all about hitting good shots.”
Leading scores after the first round of the Resorts World Manila Masters (Par 72):
65 - Mardan MAMAT (SIN), Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN)
66 - Danny CHIA (MAS), Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA)
67 - Terry PILKADARIS (AUS), Juvic PAGUNSAN (PHI), Anthony KANG (USA), Sam BRAZEL (AUS), HUNG Chien-yao (TWN)
68 - WANG Jeung-hun (KOR), LU Wen-teh (TWN), Paul PETERSON (USA), Antonio LASCUNA (PHI), Himmat RAI (IND)
70 - George GANDRANATA (INA)
74 - Rory HIE (INA)