Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond together with Korea’s Y.E. Yang and Seukhyun Baek spearheaded the Asian challenge when they opened with matching five-under-par 65s to trail first round leader Gregory Havret of France by two shots at the Omega European Masters on Thursday.
The trio are among 12 players bunched in a share of third place which also features two-time Asian Tour winner Rikard Karlberg of Sweden at the Swiss showpiece.
They are a further shot back of Denmark’s Lasse Jensen who posted a 64 to secure sole possession of second place.
Jazz had a round to remember when his first round 65 allowed him to take a share of the clubhouse lead in the morning.
The 19-year-old, who is playing at the Omega European Masters for the first time, surpassed his own expectations by mixing six birdies, one eagle and three bogeys to see his name perched atop the leaderboard.
“I was supposed to come here last year but ran into some visa problems. So, I’m really happy now that I’m here. It’s amazing to see my name among the leaders given that this is the first time I’m playing here,” said Jazz.
A fog delay held up play for over an hour in the morning, but it was a refreshing welcome for the young Thai when it resumed at 10am local time.
“I play my golf mainly in Asia so I haven’t really seen so much fog in the morning before. But after the fog cleared, the weather was really nice. The course is not too long and the ball flies further than usual. The greens are fast but it suits my game,” said Jazz.
Making his return to the Omega European Masters for the first time since 2007, Yang is also delighted with his polished 65.
“It’s nice to be back. This place is still very beautiful. Nothing much has changed except I’m playing better now,” said Yang, who missed the cut then.
Although the Asian Tour honorary member has yet to win a title this year, the Korean is already seeing positive signs in his game which have made him the only male Asian to have won a Major at the PGA Championship in 2009.
“The form has been good so far. I’ve two top-five finishes in China and Indonesia this year and also enjoyed a tied-10thresult in Scotland two weeks ago. I’m confident of another win soon,” said Yang.
Meanwhile Baek, who is based in Bangkok, credited a home holiday for his return to form.
The Korean has only made the cut once in his last four starts on the Asian Tour and believes it is the well-needed rest in his native Korea that has helped to turn his game around.
“I’ve never shot a five-under on this course before so I’m obviously delighted with my form. I took a two-week holiday back home in Korea and I think it did wonders. I just caught up with my friends and family, took my mind off golf and it worked,” said Baek.
Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion David Lipsky of the United States also got his title defence off to an encouraging start when he returned with a 66.
The Korean-American stumbled early with an opening bogey but picked himself up quickly by cruising home with five birdies.
“My play was pretty sharp. I only made one bogey which was good. There’s always expectations that you set for yourself especially on a course which you’ve won before.
“But I really like the scores and I know that low scores are out there. It’s hard to go 10-under out here but you just have to stay patient,” said the defending champion.
The Omega European Masters is the only event on European soil to be jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour since 2009.