After Typhoon Koinu hit this area last week, it was the turn of Australian Minwoo Lee to storm Macau Golf and Country Club today along with Scotland’s David Drysdale. They fired breathtaking nine-under-par 62s to share the lead after round one of the SJM Macao Open, which matched the course record but could not count officially as preferred lies applied.

India’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, joint second here in 2017 when the event was last played, Ian Snyman from South Africa and Ben Campbell from New Zealand, also went low, carding 63s.

Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand and Korean Meenwhee Kim returned 64s in the US$1 million event, that is the 18th event of the season on the Asian Tour.

Lee is the highest ranked player in the field in 46th place on the Official World Golf Ranking and proved that today, firing an eagle, eight birdies and one bogey, which came on his first hole, the 10th.

“62 anywhere is a really nice score,” said the 25-year-old from Perth, who is the younger brother of LPGA Tour star Minjee Lee.

“Especially on a course like this: it was tricky, and the wind got up. It was really nice to really drive it well and capitalise on those drives.

“There are a few holes you can hit driver and a few I didn’t just because we saw some stats from before indicating holes where not so many birdies are made. We were aggressive, smart, smart aggressive. It worked out pretty well. Drove on the fairway most of the time and had wedges in. It was an early start today, 4am wake up, so keen to get back to the room and have a snooze.”

Lee, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour, was helped by playing with countryman Scott Hend and Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, recent winner of the gold medal in the Asian Games.  

He said: “It is one of the better groups I have had all year around. Taichi is around my age, and we can talk about anything and Hendy, I have known him since being a pro on the European Tour, so it’s been really good fun and we all made a lot of birdies.”

While Lee played his round in the morning Drysdale was in the afternoon session, starting on tee one.

He birdied the first two and made three-in-a-row from the sixth to make the turn in five under, before more gains on 10, 12, 14 and 15.  

“I missed makeable birdie putts on the last three holes, including a 10-footer on the last,” said the 48-year-old, who played in Europe for over 20 years before successfully negotiating this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School.

“However, I would have taken a 62 at the start of the day. I have shot 10 under before in a tournament. The first time I played the course was yesterday in the Pro-Am, and that was in a buggy!”

He is proving to be one of the leading ‘rookies’ of the season, especially after tying for third in the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last month.

Currently in 49th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit he is looking for another good week, in order to secure a top-60 finish on the Merit list and keep his Tour card.

Sandhu missed the early part of the season due to a sore back but has gradually been returning to form, as he demonstrated today.

“I was injured for the first half of the year,” said the Indian, who has one win on his Asian Tour resume, the Yeangder TPC in 2017, as well as five runner-up finishes.

“It was nothing too serious, it looked like it could have been a back issue, but the spine is absolutely fine. It was more a ligament tear on the SI joint. I was just over- golfed. Last year, I played all the tournaments in India, chasing the Order of Merit, and on the Asian Tour. At the Saudi International [the first event this season] it just kind of gave up. I was out until May. Took a bit of time to get back into it but the game is in a good place. I was at home for two months, didn’t touch a club.”

Like Lee, and Campbell, he started on the back nine today and made an eagle, on the second, the same as Lee, and recorded seven birdies and a bogey.

He finished three shots behind compatriot Gaganjeet Bhullar here six years ago and feels his game is a match for the Macau course. 

“This is a course where you cannot get ahead of yourself. You have to position yourself on every hole, and that suits my game a bit more, you have to be patient. You can’t overpower it in anyway,” he said.

“I think the course is playing easier than the past years. Usually, it is a lot firmer and faster, but it is a little bit softer because of the rain and the typhoon, so I think that is playing a little bit into our hands. It should firm up at the weekend with the sun being down and the wind picking up. Today was a lot easier than what I am used to here. Glad I was able to take advantage of it.”

Phachara had looked to be on course to easily better the nine under mark when he went to nine under after 14, but surprisingly he pushed his tee shot out of bounds on the par-four 16th. His ball landed on the out of bounds line and unluckily he was forced to play his provisional. He signed for a double-bogey.

Scores after round 1 of the SJM Macao Open being played at the par 71, 6609 Yards Macau Golf and Country Club course (am – denotes amateur):
62 – Minwoo Lee (AUS), David Drysdale (SCO).
63 – Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Ben Campbell (NZL), Ian Snyman (RSA).
64 – Meenwhee Kim (KOR), Phachara Khongwatmai (THA).
65 – Jaewoong Eom (KOR), Andrew Dodt (AUS), Jack Thompson (AUS), Michael Maguire (USA), Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA), Turk Pettit (USA).
66 – Taichi Kho (HKG), Danthai Boonma (THA), Denwit Boriboonsub (THA), Kartik Sharma (IND), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Cheng Jin (CHN).
67 – Alvaro Ortiz (MEX), Lloyd Jefferson Go (PHI), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Poom Saksansin (THA), Todd Sinnott (AUS), Justin Quiban (PHI), Sam Brazel (AUS), Angad Cheema (IND), Prom Meesawat (THA), Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Harrison Gilbert-Wong (AUS).
68 – Honey Baisoya (IND), Dodge Kemmer (USA), Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Khalin Joshi (IND), Bjorn Hellgren (SWE), Wang Wei-hsuan (TPE), Tong Yang (CHN), Liu Zonghan (am, CHN), Matthew Cheung (HKG), Steve Lewton (ENG), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Liang Wenchong (CHN), Kevin Yuan (AUS), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Jason Knutzon (USA), Berry Henson (USA), Poom Pattaropong (THA), Karandeep Kochhar (IND).
69 – Hun Pui In (am, MAC), Gunn Charoenkul (THA), Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Josh Younger (AUS), Nicholas Fung (MAS), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (THA), Ben Jones (ENG), Runchanapong Youprayong (THA), Kasidit Lepkurte (THA), Ervin Chang (MAS).
70 – Adam John Batty (ENG), Scott Hend (AUS), S. Chikkarangappa (IND), Trevor Simsby (USA), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Zach Murray (AUS), Yikeun Chang (KOR), Chapchai Nirat (THA), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA), Siddikur Rahman (BAN), Tom Power Horan (AUS), Tanapat Pichaikool (THA), Alex Ching (USA), Yashas Chandra (IND), Miguel Carballo (ARG), Leon D’Souza (HKG), Terry Pilkadaris (AUS), Aman Raj (IND), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Hung Chien-yao (TPE), MJ Viljoen (RSA).
71 – Akshay Sharma (IND), Jeremy Gandon (FRA), Marcus Fraser (AUS), Matt Killen (ENG), Guxin Chen (CHN), Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (IND), Chiang Chen-chih (TPE), Chang Xihuan (am, CHN), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA), Rashid Khan (IND), David Gleeson (AUS), Angelo Que (PHI), Zhang Lianwei (CHN), Viraj Madappa (IND).
72 – Mitchell Slorach (SIN), Mardan Mamat (SIN), John Lyras (AUS), Veer Ahlawat (IND), Nick Voke (NZL), Ekpharit Wu (THA), Natipong Srithong (THA), Ryoto Furuya (USA), Ollie Roberts (SCO), Jakraphan Premsirigorn (THA).
73 – Douglas Klein (AUS), Jarin Todd (USA), Thitipan Pachuayprakong (THA), Abdul Hadi (SIN), Li Haotong (CHN), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), K.P. Lin (TPE).
74 – Michael Yuen (am, HKG), Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA), Chi Huang (TPE), Isaac Lee (am, HKG), S. Vikkash Babu (SIN), Lu Wei-chih (TPE), Zhang Jin (CHN), Casper Loh (MAS).
75 – Stuart McLaren (SCO), Rory Hie (INA).
76 – Neil Schietekat (RSA), Micah Lauren Shin (USA), Shahriffuddin Ariffin (MAS), Terrence Ng (HKG), Sarit Suwannarut (THA).
77 – Gaurav Singh (IND).
78 – Lander Lee (am, HKG).
Harry Boyd, USA – RT

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