Ryan Haller gave a masterclass in iron play on Thursday to take the first round lead in the US$1 million Thailand Open.
The Australian fired a seven-under-par 65 at the Suwan Golf and Country Club while young Chinese star Hu Mu returned a 66 for outright second place in the eighth event of the season on the OneAsia tour.
South Koreans Han Chang-Won and Hong Soon-Sang, New Zealander Michael Hendry, Jay Bayron from the Philippines, Malaysian Nicholas Fung and Australia’s Andrew Martin tied for third after carding 67s.
“I played incredibly well today. My iron play was perfect. I hit my approach shots to about eight feet 12 times,” said Haller.
The 37-year-old, who started his round on hole 10, did not drop a shot and made four birdies on the back nine and three on the outward half.
He closed out superbly with a brilliant save on the eighth where he hit a bunker shot from 45 yards to eight feet. On the next hole another accurate iron shot left him an eight foot birdie putt which he rolled home.
Hu, in his first year as a pro, studied for two years at the University of Florida, where he played college golf.
“It is a pretty good start. The last six holes were difficult as it started to rain pretty heavy but I held it together,” said the 21-year-old.
Korean rising star Han, 20, once again produced another fine round in his debut season on OneAsia.
“It is too early to think about winning this week, it is only the first round. But hopefully I can play the way I did today for the next three days,” he said.
Six birdies on the back nine, including four-in-a-row from the second (his 11th hole after starting at the 10th), saw 21-year-old Fung come home in 30.
“I struggled on the greens on the front nine but everything came good after the turn. I sank a couple of bombs for birdies. I holed a 30 footer on the third hole and a 25 footer on the eighth,” he said.
Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, winner of the Indonesia Open, shot a 69.