Anirban Lahiri of India continued his recent good form with an opening round four-under-par 68 to share the overnight lead with Jonathan Moore of the United States at International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Asia today.
Lahiri, who won his second Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open on home soil last week, was cruising on six-under before a bogey at 16 followed by a double bogey on the signature 17th hole at the Amata Spring Country Club, where players must take a boat ride to the green after their tee shot. He claimed a stroke back before the finish with a birdie at the 18th.
Moore, winner of the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit last year, enjoyed a good day with the putter which included an eagle three at the 15th.
Kwanchai Tannin of Thailand, Kodai Ichihara of Japan, Australian Scott Barr and two-time Asian Amateur Champion Hideki Matsuyama were a further shot back, with the top-four players at the end of the two-day, 36 hole, qualifier earning spots at The Open Championship in July.
Lahiri (pictured) said: “I’m really happy with the way I played. I drove the ball really well. I’m happy with the way I’m swinging it. All and all it was a good round. I would have loved to finish better.”
Lahiri was delighted to be in the running of earning a Major debut despite hitting his wedge shot into the water on 17.
“I love watching all The Opens. I remember watching Tiger (Woods) go out with his two-iron and smashing it around St Andrews,” the 24-year-old added. “He would kill the field and that was fantastic. Hopefully if I can play well tomorrow, I can be a part of that.”
Moore, who started at the 10th, sank a huge eagle putt on the 15th hole from the edge of the green from 50 feet before carding three straight birdies from the first hole.
“My form hasn’t been great. My set up has been quite off. I’m slowly working on it and I felt like it got better out there. The reward is very cool. I feel like I’m in it. It is actually good experience and it will kind of feel like playing in the weekend rounds tomorrow,” said Moore (pictued, below), who played in the US Open in 2006 and was part of the victorious 2007 US Walker Cup team.
Kwanchai, who is aiming to qualify for his first Major appearance, put his local knowledge to good use as he returned with five birdies against two bogeys.
“I like this golf course. I played well here at the Thailand Golf Championship except on the last day. It was an okay round for me. It would be a dream come true to be able to qualify for The Open. That’s every professional golfers’ dream,” said Kwanchai, who finished in 58th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year.
Barr of Australia was on five-under after 16 holes and but failed to maintain his momentum as he returned with two closing bogeys. He will be aiming to make his second Open appearance at Royal Lytham & St Annes this summer after making his Major debut at Royal Troon in 2004.
“I played previously in 2004 and the atmosphere and crowd were good. It was a good experience. Hopefully I can get back out there. My form is okay, I’m hitting and putting okay. I’m doing pretty well and hopefully I can hang in there,” said Barr, who finished third at the SAIL-SBI Open in India last week.
Leading scores after round one of IFQ Asia being played at the par 72, 7441yard, Amata Spring course (a- denotes amateur):
68 — Anirban LAHIRI (IND), Jonathan MOORE (USA).
69 — Kwanchai TANNIN (THA), Kodai ICHIHARA (JPN), Scott BARR (AUS), Hideki MATSUYAMA (am, JPN).
70 — David GLEESON (AUS), Chapchai NIRAT (THA), Kunal BHASIN (AUS), Masatsugu MOROFUJI (JPN).
71 — Prom MEESAWAT (THA), Mardan MAMAT (SIN), KIM Si-woo (am, KOR), Sushi ISHIGAKI (JPN), WU Ashun (CHN), Scott HEND (AUS), LAM Chih Bing (SIN).
View full scores here