Jakarta, April 23 - Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang showed his mettle as he opened his account with a six-under-par 66 to share the first round lead with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn at the US$750,000 CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters presented by Enjoy Jakarta Golf on Thursday.
Bjorn, who is seeking his first win in Asia, overcame the hot and humid conditions at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club by trading seven birdies against one bogey to tie for the lead in his debut appearance in the Asian Tour event.
Singapore-based Australian Unho Park rediscovered his putting touch by posting a 67 to share third place with India’s Abhijit Chadha, who had the honor of holing the first hole-in-one at the par-three 15 this week.
Former world number one Lee Westwood of England returned with a 69 to share seventh place with six other players that also featured Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, India’s Rashid Khan and Philippines’ Miguel Tabuena.
One of the most successful players on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) with four wins, Chan showed his class and composure in his first start on the Asian Tour this year.
Chan came off the blocks quickly by reaching the turn in 32 after four birdies in the morning.
The 28-year-old continued his birdie sprint on 12 and 14 before dropping his only shot of the day on 16. However, he redeemed himself quickly with a closing birdie.
“I’ve won four times on the ADT and I’m really serious about winning on the Asian Tour now,” said Chan.
“I hope to bring my wealth of experience, playing and winning on the ADT to the Asian Tour. It’s definitely a big step up for me and I’m looking forward to my breakthrough,” he added.
Bjorn, who boasts 21 professional victories worldwide including 15 on the European Tour, is also upbeat of landing his first win in Asia after overcoming the early morning humidity.
“I played pretty solid and I got onto a nice run in my back-nine which kind of brought the round to a really good score.
“It was humid but nice in the morning especially the first 10 to 11 holes. You’ve got to focus really hard and not let your guard down here,” said the big Dane.
Having missed the cut in all of his previous three starts on the Asian Tour this season, Park’s superb round brought back that vital self-belief required to jump start his season.
“I always surprise myself when I play this well. It was really tough out there in the afternoon as it was extremely windy. But I managed to hit my irons well and hole the putts when I needed to for a change.
“I actually played well in my first two events where I just missed the cut by one as my putting was really bad. But I worked on it and the big difference today came down to my putting,” said Park, who is chasing his first win on the Asian Tour this week.
Chadha, who secured his Tour card at Qualifying School earlier this year in Thailand, also received a timely confidence boost when he aced the 15th hole with his six-iron.
The hole-in-one set the Indian on his way to a promising start when he would go on to mark his card with four birdies and one bogey.
“It was good today. I started off well by getting a hole-in-one on the 15th and that really kept myself in it. I hit a six-iron, aimed straight at the flag and it went right into the hole.
“I’ve made a hole-in-one in my career but this is really special as I’ve made it on the Asian Tour. That gave me lots of confidence not only for the rest of the round but the entire week ahead,” said Chadha.
Meanwhile the Indonesian team failed to impress, with only one player in the top 70 after round 1. Ian Andrew leads the squad in a tie for 24th after scoring a par 72, three shots ahead of the trio of Asep Saefulloh, Denny A. Wijaya and Kurnia Herisiandy Santoso who are in a 19-way tie for 74th. Leading amateur is Tirto Tamardi who is one shot further back together with among others Rory Hie.
George Gandranata (79), who finished highest of the local players in last years edition, has to work extremely hard tomorrow to make the cut. Currently only in 129th position, he has to make up some 5 shots to get to the top 50, a difficult task indeed.
Sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Indonesia, the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters Presented by Enjoy Jakarta Golf will feature 24 Indonesian golfers, 20 professionals from the PGA Tour of Indonesia and four of Indonesia’s top amateurs who will compete in the 150 player field over 72 holes of individual stroke play.
Leading scores after round 1 of the CIMB NIAGA Indonesian Masters being played at the par 72, 7340 Yards Royale Jakarta GC course (A - denotes amateur):
66 - CHAN Shih-chang (TPE), Thomas BJORN (DEN)
67 - Abhijit CHADHA (IND), Unho PARK (AUS)
68 - Simon GRIFFITHS (ENG), Chapchai NIRAT (THA)
69 - Rashid KHAN (IND), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Shaun NORRIS (RSA), Kalle SAMOOJA (FIN), Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA), Lee WESTWOOD (ENG), Miguel TABUENA (PHI)
72 - Ian ANDREW (INA)
75 - Asep SAEFULLOH (INA), Denny A. WIJAYA (INA), Kurnia Herisiandy SANTOSO (INA)
76 - Johannes DERMAWAN (INA), Rory HIE (INA), Tirto TAMARDI (A) (INA)
77 - Junaidi IBRAHIM (INA), Bramantio ADI (INA), Fadhli Rahman SOETARSO (A), Kevin C. AKBAR (A) (INA)
78 - I Ketut SUGIARTA (INA), Almay RAYHAN (A) (INA)
79 - Benita YUNIARTO (INA), William SJAICHUDIN (INA), George GANDRANATA (INA), Daniel WIRAWAN (A) (INA)
80 - Andik MAULUDIN (INA)
81 - Jordan IRAWAN (INA), Rinaldi ADIYANDONO (INA)
82 - Rizchy SUBEKTI (A) (INA)
83 - Sarmilih (INA)
84 - Andrew WIRAWAN (INA)
87 - Fajar WINURYANTO (INA)