Asian Tour Order of Merit leader John Catlin from the Unites States moved into his familiar position on top of the leaderboard today after an opening round seven-under-par 66 gave him the lead, along with New Zealand’s rising star Kazuma Kobori, in the US$2 million International Series Morocco.

Filipino Miguel Tabuena is next best placed with a 67, on the par-73 Red Course here at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in the capital Rabat.

Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent, playing with borrowed clubs and penalised two shots for arriving late on the first tee – just 30 seconds away from a DQ – shot a remarkable 68, along with Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, Ben Campbell from New Zealand, Frenchman Sebastien Gros, Spain’s Eugenio Chacarra, Yanwei Liu from China and Japan’s Jinichiro Kozuma.

Catlin, who cruised around bogey-free like Kobori and Tabuena, has arrived in Rabat high on confidence, having made an impressive debut on the LIV Golf League last month.

He made an eagle and five birdies, evidence he is still playing the exceptionally high level of golf that saw him win the International Series Macau presented by Wynn and the Saudi Open presented by PIF back-to-back this year.

“Just very solid,” said the American, who is also second on The International Series Rankings.

“Hit a lot of really good shots. Actually left a few out there, it could have been even better, but I am very, very pleased with how I played. I am looking forward to the next three days.”

The 33-year-old, a six-timer winner on the Asian Tour, is enjoying arguably his finest season, with one reward being invites to the LIV Golf League. He finished joint 24th in Houston, tied for seventh in Nashville and will head to Valderrama next week. 

He added: “It’s just hard work and sticking to the process. I am continuing to learn from the failures from the past in order to get better. I think that’s all you can ever do.”

Kobori, aged just 22 and New Zealand’s great hope for the future playing in his first International Series event, was unwell earlier in the week and was thrilled to have produced the goods on day one. 

He said: “Unfortunately I got a bit ill on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I only got to play yesterday. I would’ve liked to have played it a bit more but hopefully I’ve still got three more rounds to play in which I am really looking forward to.

“Honestly, I don’t know how I managed it because I didn’t even touch a club Tuesday. You should have seen the shots I was hitting on the range this morning but that being said, and once I got underway, I started to hit it quite nicely. Yeah, I don’t know it all just came together when I needed it to.”

He turned professional at the end of 2023 after a brilliant amateur career that saw him claim the individual title at the Eisenhower Trophy and the Australian Amateur earlier in the year. In 2019 he also won the New Zealand PGA Championship on the PGA Tour of Australia – the circuit where he won three successive titles earlier this year for his maiden wins as a professional.

Tabuena finished fifth in the Kolon Korea Open two weeks ago for his best finish of the season on the Asian Tour. He had got his game back on track by going back to a set of clubs and a putter he had used before and this week, much to his relief, he has picked up where he left off.

“I had no idea why I experimented (with new clubs),” said Tabuena.

“It’s great to be to be hitting it well again. It’s very good to be holding that old putter that I had used for the last three years. It seems to be coming along. It’s not quite there. I had a few mental errors but there’s three days to go and it does look like it’s working now.

“I took advantage of the calmer conditions in the morning but I’m pretty tired. I’m still jetlagged. I actually have my whole team here this week.”

One of those team members is on his bag. He explained: “It was great. We were having fun the whole time. It’s my sister-in-law on the bag, Kayla. And it’s a bit different, but it seems to be working. I’m loving every second of it.”

Vincent was narrowly late for his tee-time as he had gone to Casablanca airport to collect his golf clubs, which like his brother Kieran, had not arrived with him. Unfortunately, the clubs had still not arrived and upon his return to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam he played with a set from the club pro plus a two-shot penalty, with his par on the first turned into a double.  

He said: “I had zero expectations today but feel we definitely learned something that will help us to get better in the future.”

Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and Sarit Suwannarut, Australian Travis Smyth, Swede Charlie Lindh, Yeongsu Kim from Korea and Indian Rayhan Thomas, who recently turned pro, all returned 69s.

The defending champion Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand fired a 73.

This week’s event is the eighth of the season on the Asian Tour and the third of 10 stops on The International Series.

Scores after round 1 of the International Series Morocco being played on the par-73, 7,596-yard Royal Golf Dar ES Salam Red Course (am – denotes amateur):

66 – John Catlin (USA), Kazuma Kobori (NZL).
67 – Miguel Tabuena (PHI).
68 – Ben Campbell (NZL), Sebastien Gros (FRA), Scott Vincent (ZIM), Eugenio Chacarra (ESP), Taichi Kho (HKG), Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN), Yanwei Liu (CHN).
69 – Sarit Suwannarut (THA), Travis Smyth (AUS), Phachara Khongwatmai (THA), Rayhan Thomas (IND), Yeongsu Kim (KOR), Charlie Lindh (SWE).
70 – Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND), Pat Perez (USA), Rashid Khan (IND), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Hongtaek Kim (KOR), Jaco Ahlers (RSA), Sanghyun Park (KOR), Poom Saksansin (THA), James Piot (USA), Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA), Veer Ahlawat (IND).
71 – Denwit Boriboonsub (THA), Ahmad Baig (PAK), Hugo Mazen Trommetter (am, MOR), Sampson Zheng (CHN), Aaron Wilkin (AUS), Wade Ormsby (AUS), Junghwan Lee (KOR), Scott Hend (AUS), Chanmin Jung (KOR), Ian Snyman (RSA), William Harrold (ENG), Varun Chopra (IND), Leo Oyo (JPN).
72 – Lloyd Jefferson Go (PHI), Caleb Surratt (USA), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Gunn Charoenkul (THA), David Drysdale (SCO), Angelo Que (PHI), Justin Quiban (PHI), Hung Chien-yao (TPE), James Leow (SIN), Minhyeok Yang (KOR), Honey Baisoya (IND), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Berry Henson (USA), Kieran Vincent (ZIM), Trevor Simsby (USA), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Zach Murray (AUS), Jose Toledo (GTM), Yurav Premlall (RSA), Dodge Kemmer (USA), Lachlan Barker (AUS).
73 – Meenwhee Kim (KOR), Matthew Cheung (HKG), Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA), Sihwan Kim (USA), Siddikur Rahman (BAN), Faisal Salhab (KSA), Stefano Mazzoli (ITA), Matias Dominguez (CHI), Ye Wocheng (CHN), Jazz Janewattananond (THA), Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Ayoub Lguirati (MOR), Andrew Dodt (AUS), CharngTai Sudsom (THA), Koh Deng Shan (SIN).
74 – Davis Bryant (USA), Jeunghun Wang (KOR), Michael Maguire (USA), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Maverick Antcliff (AUS), Deyen Lawson (AUS), Justin Warren (AUS), Naoki Sekito (JPN), Pierre-Henri Soero (USA), Saud Al Sharif (KSA), Peter Gunawan (INA), Poosit Supupramai (THA), Miguel Carballo (ARG), Peter Uihlein (USA), Jaewoong Eom (KOR), Othman Raouzi (MOR), Wooyoung Cho (KOR), Angus Flanagan (ENG), Douglas Klein (AUS).
75 – Joel Stalter (FRA), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Shiv Kapur (IND), Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA), Soufiane Dahmane (am, MOR), Steve Lewton (ENG), Branden Grace (RSA), Karandeep Kochhar (IND), Robin Williams (RSA), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA), Matt Killen (ENG), Adam Bresnu (am, MOR), Runchanapong Youprayong (THA).
76 – Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA), Lu Wei-chih (TPE), Shahriffuddin Ariffin (MAS), Kevin Yuan (AUS), Ho Yu-cheng (TPE), David Meyers (RSA), Ahmed Marjan (MOR), Austen Truslow (USA), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Harrison Crowe (AUS), Prom Meesawat (THA), Jack Thompson (AUS), Shota Akiyoshi (JPN), Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA), Sam Brazel (AUS), Khalin Joshi (IND), Ben Jones (ENG).
77 – Bjorn Hellgren (SWE), Jed Morgan (AUS), Chikkarangappa S. (IND), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Ervin Chang (MAS), Carlos Pigem (ESP), Kartik Sharma (IND), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Michael Herrera (USA), Danthai Boonma (THA).
78 – Ahmad Akram Skaik (am, UAE), Jonas Baumgartner (GER), Aissa Elkhadri (am, MOR), Todd Sinnott (AUS), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Lion Park (KOR).
79 – Othman Almulla (KSA).
80 – Ayoub Id-Omar (MOR), Brendan Jones (AUS), Marcus Fraser (AUS), Manav Shah (USA), Saptak Talwar (IND), Sinan Melhli (am, MOR).
81 – Youssef El Hali (am, MOR).
82 – Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (IND).
83 – Christian Banke (USA).

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