Australia’s Scott Hend continued his dominant Asian Tour run by shooting a six-under-par 66 to share the opening round honours with Hwang Inn-choon of Korea at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters on Thursday. Reigning Open Championship winner Ernie Els of South Africa was also in the mix after returning with a 68 at the US$750,000 Asian Tour event which is staged at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, who finished tied-seventh last year, fired 67 for third while Thai rising star Arnond Vongvanij, Jason Knutzon of the United States, Adilson Da Silva of Brazil and Australians David Lutterus and Scott Barr, who is playing in his 200th Asian Tour event, were a further shot back with Els.
The big-hitting Hend renewed his fondness of playing in the country where he won his first Asian Tour title in 2008. He was delighted to be in position to win his second victory this season following his triumph at the Chiangmai Golf Classic in Thailand in March.
“I’m in a good position. The scores are going to be low this week so I’ve got to keep grinding those numbers and add that into a good score,” said Hend, who traded six birdies and one eagle against one double bogey.
“The ball is not rolling very far because of how wet it is from the rain last night. We (big hitters) have an advantage over the other guys but you still have to get those putts into the hole,” said the three-time Asian Tour winner.
Starting from the 10th tee, Hend got off to a fast start with three straight birdies from 12. He double bogeyed five but it was swiftly erased with an eagle two on the subsequent hole.
“Got a bit unlucky and hit an average drive and chipped out from the rough where I hit into the cart path which went into an unplayable lie and took a double bogey. These things happen in golf but I got straight back into business with an eagle,” said Hend.
Korea’s Hwang, who won on the Asian Tour in 2008, put his new putter to good use when he birdied four of his closing five holes to share the lead.
“I haven’t been putting good enough so on Wednesday, I decided to go to the pro-shop to buy a new Odyssey putter. It felt very good and that’s why I played so well!” he smiled.
“I’m very happy because my putting was so good and I hit a lot of drives on the fairways. I like to play on this golf course. It has very good fairways and fast greens,” added Hwang.
A return to Asia has brought out the best from four-time Major champion Els, who finished tied 13th at the Masters Tournament and was placed 15th on the PGA Tour on Sunday.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable with my game. The last time I played in Chiangmai, I wasn’t too comfortable with my game. I played okay at the Masters Tournament and had a nice week at New Orleans.
“I feel that things are starting to come around so I got to thank the Asian Tour for getting my game back in shape. I like playing out here,” said the world number 24.
Scores after round 1
66 - HWANG Inn-choon (KOR), Scott HEND (AUS).
67 - Bernd WIESBERGER (AUT).
68 - Adilson DA SILVA (BRA), Ernie ELS (RSA), David LUTTERUS (AUS), Jason KNUTZON (USA), Scott BARR (AUS), Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA), Unho PARK (AUS).
69 - Jake HIGGINBOTTOM (AUS), Carlos PIGEM (ESP), Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Simon DYSON (ENG), Wade ORMSBY (AUS), Javi COLOMO (ESP), Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA), Thongchai JAIDEE (THA), Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA).
70 - Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA), Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA), Shiv KAPUR (IND), Iain STEEL (MAS), HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), Sujjan SINGH (IND), Chris RODGERS (ENG), Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN), Ryan MCCARTHY (AUS), Kieran PRATT (AUS), Darren CLARKE (NIR), Angelo QUE (PHI), Zaw MOE (MYN), Antonio LASCUNA (PHI), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Peter RICHARDSON (ENG).
71 - Adam GROOM (AUS), Matt JAGER (AUS), Peter GUSTAFSSON (SWE), PARK Hyun-bin (KOR), HSU Mong-nan (TPE), Rahil GANGJEE (IND), Danny CHIA (MAS), Matthew STIEGER (AUS), Kalle SAMOOJA (FIN), Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND), Jonathan MOORE (USA), Chapchai NIRAT (THA), Nicholas FUNG (MAS), Panuwat MUENLEK (THA), Adam BLYTH (AUS).