Defending champion Wang Wei-hsiang picked up today where he left off in last year’s Mercuries Taiwan Masters by shooting a six-under-par 66 to take the first-round lead.

A bogey-free scorecard at Taiwan Golf and Country Club, with four birdies on the front and two on the back, saw him top the leader board again in the US$1 million event and comfortably handle the fact that this year the event is back on the Asian Tour, unlike last season when, because of the global pandemic, it had to be played as a local event.  

Thailand’s Sarit Suwannarut, Donlaphatchai Niyomchon and Nitithorn Thippong, India’s Rashid Khan, and Hung Chien-yao from Chinese-Taipei shot 67s.

Suradit Yongcharoenchai from Thailand, the winner here in 2019, and Chinese-Taipei star Chan Shih-chang fired 68s, along with four other players.

Remarkably, when Wang Wei-hsiang triumphed in 2021 it came a year after his brother Wang Wei-hsuan had been victorious – again when, due to COVID-19, the event was not on the Asian Tour schedule.  

“Not thinking too much about my title defence,” said Wang Wei-hsiang, 26 and three years older than his brother, who carded a 74 today.

“Not much pressure to be honest. I told myself to stay relax and not give myself too much pressure. The conditions this week are not quite similar to last year. The course has improved and the greens are faster. It felt like summer wind out there, different from past years. Felt like we were playing in Southeast Asia. I was actually aiming to shoot even par today.”

He has engaged the services of local professional Chen Yu-zhen to caddie for him this week, which based on today’s round, could well mean he is the man to beat this week.

“It’s his home course here so he knows the course very well. He helped me a lot with the greens this week. He gave me a lot of good advice,” he added.

Sarit chose laundry over practice yesterday, but that rest day paid dividends today when after dropping a shot on the first he birdied the second and third before more birdies followed on seven, 11, 15 and 16. 

“I skipped a day of practice yesterday because I ran out of golf shirts after last week,” said the Thai golfer.

“I stayed in to do laundry and just did a workout in the hotel. Everyone was telling me the greens are tough and it’s not easy out there, so I didn’t expect much. 

“Started with a three-putt bogey today but was nice to bounce back strong. I hit my wedges really well today. It’s really hot out there. Quite easy without much wind. It’s good to start with an under-par round, sets me well for tomorrow. I took advantage of the par fives today. Hit it good off the tee, gave myself easy iron shots and then easy chips to make birdies.”

Donlaphatchai was the last Asian Tour player to win in Chinese-Taipei before the global pandemic stopped play as he claimed the Taifong Open on the Asian Development Tour at the end of 2019.  

He said: “Feels good to be back in Chinese-Taipei, especially after I won the ADT Taifong Open here in 2019. Hopefully I can continue to play the same tomorrow.

“This is my first time here so I’m very happy to shoot a 67 today. I hit my approach shots very well, giving myself a lot of birdie chances which I managed to convert. Not so much wind today so it’s slightly easy.” 

As expected Chan, a four-time Asian Tour winner including two in the last 10 months, is in the hunt, making five birdies and dropping one shot. 

“I made a great birdie on 10 from seven yards; on this course, long putts are easier than short ones, I think. The short ones are hard to read the lines and speed. That’s the challenging part of the Tamsui course,” said Chan, who is eager to win an Asian Tour event for the first time on home soil.

“So, I think I putted well overall today. Was hoping to make it three birdies in a row on the eighth but the ball stopped right outside the hole. The wind direction was pretty messy today. It’s hard to gauge. The greens are better now. Last time, it was hard to stop the ball. That’s why you see some low scoring this week.”

Thailand’s teenage amateur star Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat came in with a 70 to put himself in a good position to make the halfway cut, something which he didn’t do in last week’s Yeangder TPC, which was his first Asian Tour event since June.

“I am happy with that, I am going to be honest, I have not been playing great, I didn’t play well last week,” said the 15 year old, who won the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup on the Asian Tour in April.

“I started off bogeying the first very easy holes today, like the way I played last week, which was not great so just happy I pulled myself back and shot four under for the rest of the round so I am definitely happy, but I think I need to get back into that proper mindset, the real TK mindset. I made four bogeys today, the real TK would be disgusted, so I need to get my confidence back. 

“I am enjoying playing the course, it’s tough and reminds me when we played Tanah Merah at the start of the year when only three of us, including me, finished under par.”   

Scores after round 1 of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters 2022 being played at the par 72, 6923 Yards Tamsui Course course (am – denotes amateur):
66 – Wang Wei-hsiang (TPE).
67 – Donlaphatchai Niyomchon (THA), Sarit Suwannarut (THA), Rashid Khan (IND), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Hung Chien-yao (TPE).
68 – Daniel Fox (AUS), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Benjamin Follett-Smith (ZIM), Scott Strange (AUS), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Shiv Kapur (IND).
69 – Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Veer Ahlawat (IND), Chen Po-hao (TPE), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA).
70 – Udayan Mane (IND), Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA), Rahil Gangjee (IND), Angelo Que (PHI), Yeh Yu-chen (TPE), Huang Yi-tseng (TPE), S. Chikkarangappa (IND), Siddikur Rahman (BAN), Huang Kuan-hsun (TPE).
71 – Chiang Chen-chih (TPE), Chapchai Nirat (THA), Poom Saksansin (THA), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Sattaya Supupramai (THA), Lin K.P. (TPE), Sam Brazel (AUS), Honey Baisoya (IND), Kevin Yuan (AUS), Berry Henson (USA), Travis Smyth (AUS), Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Justin Quiban (PHI), Lee Jui-shen (am, TPE), Kevin Phelan (IRL), M Dharma (IND).
72 – Chen Yi-chian (TPE), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Nicholas Fung (MAS), FANG Yin-jen (TPE), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Shen Wei-cheng (TPE), Christoffer Baumann (SWE), Wang Tsung-chieh (TPE), Danthai Boonma (THA), Bjorn Hellgren (SWE).
73 – Ben Eccles (AUS), Lu Wen-teh (TPE), Aman Raj (IND), Lin Wen-tang (TPE), Khalin Joshi (IND), Keith Horne (RSA), Jack Harrison (ENG), Chan Yih-shin (TPE), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Hsu Li-peng (TPE), Tanapat Pichaikool (THA), Hsu Yu-cheng (TPE), Ho Yu-cheng (TPE), Ian Snyman (RSA), Viraj Madappa (IND), Hsieh Chi-hsien (TPE), Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA), Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA).
74 – Woohyun Kim (KOR), Tseng Tzu-hsuan (TPE), Karandeep Kochhar (IND), Liu Yen-Hung (TPE), Hsu Chia-shen (TPE), Hsieh Tung-hung (TPE), Mathiam Keyser (RSA), Huang Chi (TPE), Wang Wei-hsuan (TPE), Lu Wei-chih (TPE), Lu Chien-soon (TPE), Poom Pattaropong (THA), Chen Yu-yu (am, TPE), Wen Cheng-hsiang (TPE).
75 – Liu Yu-jui (TPE), LIN Yung-lung (TPE), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Huang Hsiang-hao (TPE), Lin Chang-heng (TPE), Natipong Srithong (THA), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA), Prom Meesawat (THA), Rory Hie (INA), Chen Yuan-chi (TPE).
76 – Koh Deng Shan (SIN), Jake Higginbottom (AUS), Kasidit Lepkurte (THA), Jakraphan Premsirigorn (THA), Chiu Han-ting (TPE), Lu Sun-yi (am, TPE), Danny Chia (MAS), Chen Yi-tong (TPE), Sung Mao-chang (TPE), Ben Leong (MAS), Tsai Tsung-yu (TPE), Lai Wei-lun (TPE).
77 – Kao Teng (TPE), Shapiyate Mako (TPE), He Chin-hung (TPE), Liao Huan-jyun (TPE).
78 – Chen Tze-ming (TPE), Lin Wen-ko (TPE), Zach Bauchou (USA), Lai Chia-i (TPE), Chen Kai-chun (am, TPE), Wu Yi-hsuan (am, TPE).
79 – Chang Hsun-chen (TPE), Danny Masrin (INA), Sean Yu (TPE).
80 – Yikeun Chang (KOR), Janne Kaske (FIN).
81 – Matt Cheng (TPE), Naoki Sekito (JPN), Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Miguel Carballo (ARG).
82 – Chen Tze-chung (TPE).

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