Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion David Lipsky of the United States underlined his credentials by firing a seven-under-par 65 to trail first round leader Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland by one at the inaugural US$2 million True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain on Thursday.
Teeing off in the morning, Hoey had set the early pace with an impressive course record 64 after firing eight birdies to take the opening honours at the Thai showpiece which is also the richest golf tournament in Thailand.
Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao was in relaxed mood as he took his place among the leaders with a 65, sharing second place with Lipsky and Spaniard Carlos Pigem at the Black Mountain Golf Club.
India’s Shiv Kapur celebrated his 33rd birthday by posting a 66 to take outright fifth place at the Thailand Classic, which is the first co-sanctioned tournament by the Asian Tour and European Tour in Thailand in eight years.
Lipsky, who was tied for 42nd at the Asian Tour season-opening event in Malaysia last week, was happy to bounce back with an assured performance, befitting of his status as Asia’s number one in 2014.
“I had a bad finish to the week in Malaysia but each and every week, I’ve been getting better and this is the first stretch of the year and my game is still in pretty good shape. It’s always work in progress and I’m trying to get better all the time,” said Lipsky.
The Korean-American also banked on his course familiarity at the Black Mountain Golf Club to put himself into an advantageous position.
“I’ve played here a couple of times and the course is in great shape right now. Scoring conditions are perfect but if you get to the wrong side of these pins, it’s hard to make pars as you’re looking at 20 footers.
“Overall, it was pretty good today as I scored well considering how tricky it was to get to a lot of the locations,” said Lipsky.
Hoey, a five-time European Tour winner, meanwhile took advantage of the early benign morning conditions to kick-start off his campaign promisingly.
“We had 10 or 11 holes with not much wind, which was an advantage teeing off early,” said Hoey.
“No bogeys, no fives on the card, and a course record is a nice start. I’m swinging the club nicely so hopefully I’ll put three more good rounds together and see what happens,” added Hoey.
Hung, who has won once on the Asian Development Tour, believes his carefree attitude was the key to a bright start.
“I was feeling very relaxed when I went out there today and there was no pressure and I played the best I could,” said Hung.
Despite playing in the afternoon where wind conditions were stronger, the 22-year-old remained firmly grounded, kept the bogeys off the card and returned home comfortably with a 65.
“This (windy conditions) is okay for us as we are used to such conditions back home. In fact, I think we need some wind to cool us down. I just need to remain focus, continue to putt well and I should be okay,” said Hung.
Like Hung, Kapur also kept the bogeys off the card to keep himself in contention.
Despite nursing a cold, the birthday boy got off brightly with five birdies in his opening back-nine 10th.
He added another birdie on six after the turn before returning home comfortably in 66.
“It’s a nice present. You wake up in the morning hoping for a good day because you don’t want to be grumpy for the rest of the day. I couldn’t have asked for a better result.
“They keep saying beware of the sick golfer and it seems to work. Hopefully I can stay sick and keep playing the way I’m!” laughed Kapur.
Leading Scores after round 1 of the True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain being played at the par 72, 7359 Yards Black Mountain course (am – denotes amateur):
64 – Michael HOEY (NIR).
65 – HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), Carlos PIGEM (ESP), David LIPSKY (USA).
66 – Shiv KAPUR (IND).
67 – Scott HEND (AUS), Matt FORD (ENG), Alex NOREN (SWE), Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA), Renato PARATORE (ITA), Miguel JIMENEZ (ESP), Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA), Prayad MARKSAENG (THA).
68 – Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA), Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA), Paul PETERSON (USA), Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN), Jeunghun WANG (KOR), Richard T. LEE (CAN).
69 – Johan CARLSSON (SWE), Matthew BALDWIN (ENG), Lionel WEBER (FRA), Thomas BJORN (DEN), Thongchai JAIDEE (THA), Anirban LAHIRI (IND), Brett RUMFORD (AUS), Adrian OTAEGUI (ESP), Marcus FRASER (AUS), Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN), Kieran PRATT (AUS), Chris LLOYD (ENG), Jbe KRUGER (RSA), Tom LEWIS (ENG), Marc WARREN (SCO), Peter UIHLEIN (USA), Gregory HAVRET (FRA), Terry PILKADARIS (AUS), Johan EDFORS (SWE), Sam BRAZEL (AUS).