Despite stumbling with a bogey on the first hole, Atthaphon kept his cool to bounce back strongly with six birdies, which included three consecutive birdies starting from the fifth, at the Santiburi Samui Country Club, better known as the ‘Beast of Samui’ due to its challenging layout.
Sri Lanka’s Mithun Perera, who was flawless with five birdies through 16 holes starting from the 10th, dropped a shot on the eighth to slip out of lead for second place while a host of seven players, including 2009 Queen’s Cup winner, Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand, India’s Chiragh Kumar and the consistent Jeunghun Wang of Korea, shared third place on 68.
Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, a two-time winner of the Queen’s Cup in 2012 and 2014, reigning Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert and Prayad Marksaeng, also a previous winner of the Queen’s Cup in 2013, were amongst those bunched in 10th place following matching 69s.
Atthaphon, who played on the Asian Tour in the early 2000s before shifting his attention to the burgeoning ADT in recent years, knew he has to stay grounded and not get ahead of himself should he wish to continue his lead.
“I didn’t expect to be in the lead actually, having missed the halfway cuts two weeks in a row in Bangladesh and on the ADT in Malaysia last week. I played with an open mind. I didn’t think much out there and I played solid. I drove the ball well and my putting was good,” said the 36-year-old Thai, who amassed 27 putts.
“I tried to hit as many fairways as I can because that’s the key to play well here. The course is narrow and the windy conditions makes it even tougher to score out there because it is hard to address the distances. I hit good iron shots to about four to five foot for birdies on a couple of holes and I had a few good par saves too,” added Atthaphon.
Perera lamented his missed chances for birdies on his first six holes but credited his exquisite ball-striking and accuracy off the tee for what is his best round ever at the Santiburi Samui Country Club.
“I actually missed a few birdie chances at the start of the round but managed to make one on the 16th which got my momentum going into the round. I played good golf today but I thought I could be better as I missed the birdies on four to five holes, all from within five feet,” said the 28-year-old Sri Lankan.
Perera reckons that a hot putter will help him to more solid rounds this week as he set his sights on a maiden Asian Tour win this week.
“If I can hole more putts this week, I will be confident that I can contend for the title. It has not been easy. It’s a difficult course and it was windy out there. I am happy with my ranking on the Asian Tour right now but I want to try and win my first title. I will keep the momentum going and hopefully this will be my week,” added Perera, placed 17th on the Order of Merit.
Chiragh was delighted to put up a commendable round after rubbing off some good vibes from leader and playing partner Atthaphon.
“I played well today and my putting was good. I played with Atthaphon and he was in his top form. I managed to rub off some good vibes from him. It definitely helps when someone in your group is playing well. I am happy with my round,” said the 31-year-old India, who traded five birdies against two bogeys.
The 19-year-old Wang, who has not missed a single cut in his last 23 starts, kept up with his consistency despite not being in top form.
“My tee shots were kind of off and I didn’t putt well today. I guess I got tired from playing too much golf before coming here. But having said that, I think playing in tournaments has helped me to stay consistent in my game. It allows me to practise while playing and I guess that’s how I stay consistent,” explained Wang, who enjoyed a tied-sixth finish last year.
Scores after round 1 of the Queen’s Cup Samui Golf Tournament 2015 being played at the par 71, 6814 Yards Santiburi GCC course (am – denotes amateur):
66 – Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA).
67 – Mithun PERERA (SRI).
68 – Chiragh KUMAR (IND), Jeunghun WANG (KOR), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Akinori TANI (JPN), Settee PRAKONGVECH (THA), Pannakorn UTHAIPAS (THA), Niclas JOHANSSON (SWE).
69 – Richard T. LEE (CAN), Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA), Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Danny CHIA (MAS), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA), Paul PETERSON (USA), Prayad MARKSAENG (THA), Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN), Fumihiro EBINE (JPN).
70 – Jake STIRLING (AUS), Chapchai NIRAT (THA).
71 – Yoshinobu TSUKADA (JPN), Khalin JOSHI (IND), Daniel CHOPRA (SWE), Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA), Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA), Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA), Vetis SAENGHIRAN (THA), Shaun NORRIS (RSA), Chan KIM (USA), Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA), Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA).
72 – Gavin Kyle GREEN (MAS), Lionel WEBER (FRA), Smithti TEERATRAKUL (THA), Marvin DUMANDAN (PHI), Wolmer MURILLO (VEN), Tanutchan PUAKTES (THA), Ekthumrong LUANGANURAK (THA), Kalle SAMOOJA (FIN), Yosuke TSUKADA (JPN).
73 – LAM Chih Bing (SIN), Marcus BOTH (AUS), Digvijay SINGH (IND), Jbe KRUGER (RSA), Rashid KHAN (IND), Niall TURNER (IRL), LEE Chieh-Po (TPE), Tichakorn SAWADEE (THA), Poom SAKSANSIN (THA), Danthai BOONMA (THA), Ryosuke KINOSHITA (JPN), Phanuvich ONCHU (THA), Miguel TABUENA (PHI), Sorachut HANSAPIBAN (THA), S.S.P. CHAWRASIA (IND), CHAN Shih-chang (TPE), Poosit SUPUPRAMAI (THA), Thummanoon KOONMARK (THA), George GANDRANATA (INA), Peter STOJANOVSKI (AUS).