American Scott Piercy fired 10 birdies to lead the opening round of the US$7 million CIMB Classic with a sparkling 10-under-par 62 on Thursday.
The 37-year-old matched the low score at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course, thanks to five birdies on each nine in the prestigious event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR.
Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama carded a 65 to lie three shots back in second place while Alex Cejka of Germany, Australian Cameron Smith and the American trio of Jason Gore, Charles Howell III and Keegan Bradley shot 66s to share third place.
Shot of the day belonged to Scott Brown of the United States, who aced the par-three 15th hole with a six iron to drive away with a RM1.192 million (approximately US$278,000) BMW i8. He ended the day with a 68, six shots back.
World number 42 Piercy rode on a hot putter as he reeled in three opening birdies before collecting more gains on five and seven. He snared five more birdies coming home, including a chip-in for birdie on 13 from 10 feet.
“I made two really key putts for par and then I chipped one in (13th hole) from being dead. So I got a little lucky because I hit it long left there, just dead, short sided, 10 feet below the green. I just hit this flop shot and just rolled right in the hole,” said Piercy, who is a three-time PGA TOUR winner.
Piercy, who enjoyed a tied 10th result in the 2012 CIMB Classic, was delighted to return to form after playing poorly at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open where he finished tied 25th.
“I was really frustrated, especially being at home. I felt like I played absolute the worst I could have played and still finished top 25. That’s why I felt like my game was in a good spot. But, or I should say I scored really terrible last week.
“The putts didn’t go in last week and lo and behold this week. Filled them up pretty good on the first day. So, hopefully it continues,” said Piercy.
Matsuyama, ranked 15th in the world, took full advantage of the ideal scoring conditions to stay within touching distance of Piercy.
“I hit my driver really well and that was really the reason I was able to score well. When you have no wind like today and able to put it in hand (preferred lie ruling), it’s very enjoyable to play in those conditions,” Matsuyama.
Asian Tour member Smith, whose fifth place finish at last year’s CIMB Classic provided the launchpad for him to earn his PGA TOUR card, was two over through four holes but reeled in six straight birdies after making the turn.
“It was very dodgy at the start. The swing was out and then I just started trusting it on the back nine and made six birdies in a row. My caddie Sam was kicking me up the butt and kept telling me to go forward and forget about it.
“So I was lucky to get out of there with even par, and then just caught fire on the back nine,” smiled the 22-year-old Smith, who had finished tied fourth at the U.S. Open in June.
Brown probably wore the broadest smile at the end of day one after winning the BMW sports car following his third hole-in-one on the PGA TOUR. However, this was the first time he had won a prize for his magical shot.
“I made like three hole-in-ones in the last two years on Tour and walking up looking at the card I thought, man, it would be nice to make a hole-in-one and win something. Because the other two I made I got nothing! So this prize makes it the best hole-in-one I ever made,” beamed Brown.
Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India carded a 70 on a course where he was victorious at the Malaysian Open in February while Ben Leong and Danny Chia were the best Malaysians with 71s.
Scores after round 1 of the CIMB Classic being played at the par 72, 6,985 Yards Kuala Lumpur GcC course (am – denotes amateur):
62 – Scott Piercy (USA).
65 – Hideki Matsuyama (JPN).
66 – Jason Gore (USA), Alex Cejka (GER), Cameron Smith (AUS), Charles Howell III (USA), Keegan Bradley (USA).
67 – Spencer Levin (USA), Morgan Hoffmann (USA), Kevin Na (USA), Matt Jones (AUS), Brendan Steele (USA), Ryan Moore (USA), Branden Grace (RSA), Scott Hend (AUS).
68 – Patrick Reed (USA), Adam Scott (AUS), Scott Brown (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), Chad Campbell (USA), Padraig Harrington (IRL), Troy Merritt (USA), Stewart Cink (USA).
69 – Jason Dufner (USA), Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Brendon De Jonge (ZIM), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), Jon Curran (USA), Robert Streb (USA), Paul Casey (ENG), Kevin Chappell (USA), Scott Pinckney (USA).