Wales’ Jamie Donaldson set the stage alight with a sizzling nine-under-par 63 to take the first round lead at the Thailand Golf Championship held at the Amata Spring Country Club on Thursday.
The Welshman was clearly a man on fire as he brilliantly navigated his way around the 7,453 yards, par-72 course by marking his flawless card with nine birdies to take pole position at the US$1 million Asian Tour event.
Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan, a recent Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner, and Chinnarat Phadungsil spearheaded the home charge by returning with matching 66s to share second place with Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
Donaldson, who is making his debut at the Thailand Golf Championship, stormed off the blocks quickly with four straight birdies from his opening front-nine first.
After turning in 32, he made his homeward run even more remarkable with birdies on holes 10, 14, 15, 17 and 18.
“I played really good all day and I couldn’t really do anything wrong. I just need to continue this form for the next few days and not concentrate on things that are out of my control or ahead of me.
“I just want to stay in the present as they say and take it one day at a time,” said Donaldson.
Chanat, who lifted his maiden ADT title in Malaysia last month, showed how valuable his winning experience was when he surged ahead of the morning pack with four birdies in his opening five holes.
He dropped a shot on 16 but came back strongly with three birdies in his closing four holes.
“Winning on the ADT last month has given me a huge confidence boost. It was also a platform for me to hone my skills and improve my mental game.
“I hit my driver really good and missed only one fairway and two greens. I putted well and also made a lot of birdies,” said Chanat.
Despite arriving home late from Japan, Chinnarat showed no signs of lethargy as he ensured a strong Thai presence atop the leaderboard.
Chinnarat’s only blemish came at the par-five 15 where he double-bogeyed but otherwise it was a good round for the three-time Asian Tour winner.
“I hit the ball really good despite not having any practice rounds as I just returned from the Japan Golf Tour Q-School yesterday.
“My tee shots and approach shots were solid. I made four birdies in a row to turn in 32 and managed to build on that momentum by sinking three straight birdies after the turn. Although I had double-bogey on 15, it’s still ok as overall, I’m glad with how I played today,” said the 27-year-old.
Garcia also set out his intent on winning again with yet another commanding performance especially with his back-nine 31.
Fresh off his victory in Vietnam last week, the Spaniard mixed two birdies and a bogey for an outward 35.
After dropping another shot on 10, he roared back into life with six birdies to stay three shots back of Donaldson.
“I’m definitely happy. It was wonderful back nine and I’m obviously delighted with shooting five-under there.
“I am feeling good. It hit some very good shots throughout the day and I feel like I’m in a good position going into the next day,” said Garcia.
Leading scores after round 1 of the Thailand Golf Championship being played at the par 72, 7498 Yards Amata Spring GcC course (am – denotes amateur):
63 – Jamie DONALDSON (WAL).
66 – Chanat SAKULPOLPHAISAN (THA), Sergio GARCIA (ESP), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA).
67 – Natipong SRITHONG (THA), Brett MUNSON (USA).
68 – Yusaku MIYAZATO (JPN), Matthew FITZPATRICK (ENG), Martin KAYMER (GER), Jbe KRUGER (RSA), Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA).
69 – Byeonghun AN (KOR), Matthew GILES (AUS), Soomin LEE (KOR), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), Sam CYR (USA), Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA), Chikkarangappa S. (IND), Joost LUITEN (NED), Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA), Darren CLARKE (NIR), Angelo QUE (PHI).
70 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA), Sunghoon KANG (KOR), Jacques BLAAUW (RSA), Berry HENSON (USA), Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA), Mithun PERERA (SRI), Nicolas COLSAERTS (BEL), Rashid KHAN (IND), Sam BRAZEL (AUS), Shaun NORRIS (RSA).
71 – Lee WESTWOOD (ENG)