manila.mastersMalaysia’s Nicholas Fung snatched the first round lead with a super six-under-par 66 at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters on Thursday, four days after missing out on a maiden Asian Tour victory.

The 25-year-old Fung, who has two top-10s in the richest golf tournament in the Philippines, showed his liking once more for the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club with a seven-birdie card to lead by one from Thailand’s Poom Saksansin and Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao.

Unheralded Filipino Orlan Sumcad, Australian Sam Brazel, Chinese Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po, Spaniard Carlos Pigem, Giwhan Kim of Korea, India’s Jyoti Randhawa and Thailand Rattanon Wannasrichan all shot 68s to share fourth place in the full field Asian Tour tournament.

The slightly-built Fung, who finished one shot behind Thai winner Danthai Boonma at the World Classic Championship in Singapore last weekend, took only 23 putts into move into contention for the second straight tournament.

“My game is feeling good. I left a couple of shots out there but it’s okay. I am feeling very confident,” said a beaming Fung.  “I like playing here. It is always good to come back as I always feel comfortable. My runner-up finish last week definitely gave me a boost in confidence.”

The Malaysian revealed he has benefited from countryman Danny Chia’s advice, who told him to simply “enjoy the golf”. 

“He’s like a mentor to me. Looking at how he won in Chinese Taipei recently after coming back from injury really inspired me. If he can do it, why can’t I? Furthermore, I have no injuries so I knew I needed to change my mind set. He told me to just enjoy my game and not think about winning,” said Fung.

“I wasn’t disappointed after missing out on a win last week because the runner-up finish allowed me to secure my card for next season.”

Hung, 23, dropped two bogeys over his last three holes to settle for tied second place. Like Fung, he is confident of sustaining his push for a first Asian Tour title. “Before I came, I already felt good as I love this course,” said Hung, who was tied fourth here last season.

“I made a lot of long putts. Only bad thing was the bogey, par, bogey finish. I got the wrong yardages on seven and nine.”

Baby-faced Poom, playing in the first group out from the 10th tee in the morning, took advantage of ideal conditions with six birdies against a lone dropped shot. “It was not windy. I guess that was an advantage. I gave myself a lot of opportunities and I hit many good shots,” said the 22-year-old.

Pigem was pleased as punch to feature on the leaderboard, having arrived for the Resorts World Manila Masters early Thursday morning after a failed campaign at the European Tour Qualifying School.

“It (68) felt pretty good as I arrived last night at 1am and with no practice round. I’m pretty happy,” said the Spaniard. “When I told people I was coming to the Philippines (after Q-school), they said I was mad. But I said why not? I had better feelings on this course as I finished third here two years ago. We’re still young, 25 years old, and we’ve got to keep working hard.”

The local charge was surprisingly carried by 42-year-old Sumcad, who has never won a professional title. He moved into contention with five birdies. “I needed only 27 putts and putting is the key to play well here,” he said.

“The game’s feeling good. I played in the morning so it wasn’t too windy. If I can play consistently, I should be fine.”

Countrymen Miguel Tabuena, recovering from a stomach bug, battled to a 70 while Angelo Que endured a topsy-turvy 71 which included one double bogey, three bogeys and six birdies.

Title holder Mardan Mamat of Singapore birdied three of his last seven holes to salvage a 74 which left him in danger of missing the halfway cut.

Resorts World Manila Masters partners include Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club and supported by Marriott, Scientific Games, Aristocrat, IGT Asia Pte Ldt, Fuji Xerox, Konami, Levelwear, Mitsubishi Motors, RGD LTD, Net Pacific, Inc, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Avis and Glenmorangie. 

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Scores after round 1 of the Resorts World Manila Masters being played at the par 72, 7,317 Yards Manila Southwoods GCC course (am – denotes amateur):

66 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS).

67 – Poom SAKSANSIN (THA), HUNG Chien-yao (TPE).

68 – Sam BRAZEL (AUS), Orlan SUMCAD (PHI), LEE Chieh-po (TPE), Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA), Giwhan KIM (KOR), Carlos PIGEM (ESP), Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND).

69 – Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA), Bryce EASTON (RSA), Scott BARR (AUS), Adilson DA SILVA (BRA), Adam GROOM (AUS), Jbe KRUGER (RSA), Simon YATES (SCO), Rufino BAYRON (PHI), Chan KIM (USA), Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN), Richard T. LEE (CAN), Jeunghun WANG (KOR), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA), Clyde MONDILLA (PHI), Akinori TANI (JPN), Jonathan MOORE (USA).

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