Seeking a first victory since winning the Masters last year, Charl Schwartzel shot a seven-under 65 yesterday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Thailand Golf Championship.
The South African made seven birdies in a bogey-free round at Amata Spring Country Club, four coming in the opening seven holes, to hold a narrow advantage over Thitiphun Chuayprakong (66).
“I’m very happy with the way my game has started getting back,” Schwartzel said. “Last month and a half, I’ve been able to start working on my swing again and getting my swing back to what it was a year or so ago.”
“My consistency is coming back, and that to me is key,” he added.
Third-ranked Bubba Watson (68) had an eagle and six birdies to lie three shots off the lead, while defending champion Lee Westwood (70) was in 21st place.
“It was a solid round, but I made a few mistakes,” said Watson, this year’s Masters winner. “Hit a cart patch and bounced into the woods and had to take an unplayable, and had a three putt on the 17.”
Daniel Chopra shot a 67 to share third place with Javi Colomo.
Schwartzel opened his round with two straight birdies, picked up two more shots at holes six and seven, and then holed birdie putts on three of the last six holes on the par-72, 7,453m course.
“I found many fairways and, to me, that’s the key on this golf course because the rough is so high,” Schwartzel said. “It’s nice to put yourself in position.”
“You’re not going to win the golf tournament after round 1, but you sure can lose it,” he added.
The 20-year-old Chuayprakong, who only last week secured his Asian Tour card at a tournament in Khon Kaen, played without pressure to move into second place.
“My drives were traveling well. The condition was perfect as the green was soft and the fairways were great,” he said.
Sung Mao-chang was the highest-placed Taiwanese on one-under, while Lu Wen-teh was a shot further back.
Australian John Senden enjoyed calm morning conditions to fire a six-under-par 66 for a two-shot lead over world No. 4 Justin Rose after the opening round of the Australian Open at The Lakes yesterday.
Senden, fresh from his finest season on the USPGA Tour where he had five top-10 finishes, collected eight birdies in his round.
The 41-year-old, an Australian Open winner six years ago at Royal Sydney, led the field from Rose and four others — New Zealand’s Gareth Paddison and Australians Brendan Jones, Kim Felton and Richard Green — who were all on four-under 68.
“I am playing some of the best golf of my life. I need to believe in that and keep going forward,” Senden said.
Teeing off early, Senden took advantage of the perfect scoring conditions to make the turn at five-under and despite two bogeys in the middle of his round, he recovered to finish with two birdies.