Big-hitting Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat took the clubhouse lead in the rain-interrupted first round of the US$2.75 million Maybank Malaysian Open, carding a superb seven-under-par 65 at KLGCC’s West Course.
Nicknamed the John Daly of Asia, the burly golfer shrugged off fatigue due to a thyroid problem to snare eight birdies against just one bogey and take a one-shot lead over Denmark’s Anders Hansen, Italy’s Edoardo Molinari and France’s Gregory Bourdy.
Plagued by a thyroid disease since the start of the year, Kiradech has still managed to produce some strong performances. He was third at the Asian Tour’s season-opening Zaykabar Myanmar Open, fourth at the Avantha Masters in India last week and also qualified for his maiden appearance at the British Open by winning the International Final Qualifying – Asia in Thailand earlier this month.
“The weather is hot and the thyroid disease is making me feel tired. Honestly, I didn’t have enough energy to hit long drives. I’m still taking medication for my thyroid condition and I’ll consider going for an operation when I consult my doctor in six months’ time,” said Kiradech.
“I didn’t set any goals. I want to take it shot by shot. When you don’t have power or energy, you can’t force yourself,” he added.
Molinari produced his best round since last March after starting to work with Canadian coach Sean Foley, who also trains Tiger Woods.
“He (Foley) is making big changes. I need big changes because I didn’t like the way I was playing last year. I felt it was time to change. I like what he says and I have a lot more knowledge on what I’m doing on the golf course now. As soon as I miss a shot on the course, I know how to fix it,” said the Italian Ryder Cup star.
2009 Hong Kong Open champion Bourdy renewed his love affair with Asia with a round that included seven birdies.
“I feel good when it is warm and I usually play well when it’s like this, so I hope it continues. I like the course a lot. It’s maybe one of the best we play all season and it’s in great shape again this year. I hope my game stays like this until Sunday,” said Bourdy, who was runner-up at the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.
Malaysian veteran S. Murthy carded an impressive bogey-free 67 to lead the local challenge, while world number three Luke Donald of England opened his campaign with a disappointing 74.
Play was abandoned at 4.05pm due to a heavy thunderstorm, with 78 players to resume play on Friday morning at 7.45am. Scott Jamieson of Scotland was six-under through 10 holes while 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and China’s Wu Ashun stood at four-under through 11 and 12 holes respectively.
Leading Round 1 Scores (completed rounds only):
65 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)
66 – Anders Hansen (DEN), Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA)
67 – S. Murthy (MAS), Victor Dubuisson (FRA)
68 – Lee Sung (KOR), Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Adilson Da Silva (BRA)