American John Michael O’Toole exploded into life in the opening round of the PGM Penang Championship by shooting a new course record of eight-under-par 64 to lead by one shot on Wednesday.
O’Toole, who claimed his breakthrough Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory in March, produced nine birdies against a lone bogey to sit atop the leaderboard while Australian Adam Blyth trails in second place at the Penang Golf Club.
Thai teenager Suradit Yongcharoenchai and American Nick Sherwood shared third place on matching 66s while Thailand’s Pasamet Pogamnerd, K P Lin of Chinese Taipei and England’s Christopher Cannon stayed a further shot back in fifth at the RM200,000 (approximately US$46,600) event.
ADT Order of Merit leader Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand and Malaysia’s Gavin Green, who is chasing for an Olympic berth this August, were among those bunched in 16th position on 70s at the PGM Penang Championship, which is the Tour’s second stop in Penang this season.
O’Toole, younger cousin of reigning ADT Order of Merit champion Casey, is excited about his prospects this week after breaking a course record for the second time this season. He had fired a stunning course record 61 in the Philippines earlier in April.
“I told myself that I need to hit a lot of fairways and I managed to do so. You can’t afford to miss on the wrong spots on this course. I kept the ball in play throughout the round and I hit my wedges very well. I putted well too,” said the 23-year-old American.
O’Toole started the day with two straight pars before his round took off with four consecutive birdies from the 12. He dropped a shot on 13 but recovered swiftly with a birdie on the next. He went on to cap a flawless back nine highlighted by four birdies on his way home.
“I have been struggling with my tee shots before this week. I am glad it is back in good shape today. Tee shots are very important on this course. I felt comfortable off the tee and I guess that got the game rolling throughout the round,” added O’Toole.
Blyth, who is playing on a sponsor’s invite this week, is delighted to put himself in the mix after returning with a flawless highlighted by seven birdies.
“I had a good solid round. I hit the ball well and my chipping and putting were good too. I had about three chips that lipped out from the hole. It could have been an even better round but I’ll take it. The course is nice. You need to play it very strategically and I am enjoying it so far,” said the 34-year-old Australian.
The ADT, which was inaugurated in 2010 as the gateway to the premier Asian Tour, will reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2017.
The winner of the PGM Penang Championship will receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points while the top six players and ties will also earn points based on a sliding scale.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading first round scores:
64 – John Michael O’TOOLE (USA)
65 – Adam BLYTH (AUS)
66 – Suradit YONGCHAROENCHAI (THA) , Nick SHERWOOD (USA)
67 – K P LIN (TPE) , Christopher CANNON (ENG) , Pasamet POGAMNERD (THA)
68 – KIM Leun-kwang (MAS) , Pijit PETCHKASEM (THA)
69 – Danny CHIA (MAS) , Rizal AMIN (MAS) , M. Sasidaran (MAS) , Nicholas FUNG (MAS) , Oscar ZETTERWALL (SWE) , Reagan PNG (SIN)
70 – Gavin GREEN (MAS) , Mitchell SLORACH (SIN) , Mohammad WAFIYUDDIN (MAS) , Sukree OTHMAN (MAS) , Mohd Iylia JAMIL (MAS) , Kemarol BAHARIN (MAS) , LIN Wen-ko (TPE) , Dillon SOLDWISCH (USA) , Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) , Yooho LEE (KOR)
71 – Blake SNYDER (USA) , KHOR Kheng Hwai (MAS) , Shion OKAWA (JPN) , Nathan PARK (AUS) , Hans JAMIL (MAS) , Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA) , S. Siva Chandhran (MAS) , Johannes VEERMAN (USA) , R. Nachimuthu (MAS) , Shahizul AHMAD (MAS)