Johor Bahru, November 17: Dutchman Joost Luiten shot a scintillating eight-under-par 63 to take the clubhouse lead in the weather-interrupted first round of the US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open.
Luiten, who finished in tied fifth in Singapore last week, birdied the last hole to take a one-shot lead over defending Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Australian Marcus Fraser and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.
Charlie Wi of Korea, a seven-time winner in the region, led the Asian charge with a 66 to lie in fifth place with James Morrison of England and Nicolas Meitinger of Germany.
The first round was called off for the day an hour after lightning stopped play at 4.22pm, leaving 78 players to return at 7.20 am on Friday to resume play.
Luiten, who started on the 10th tee, peppered the flags with accurate approach shots and was rewarded with four straight birdies starting from the 15th hole.
“Yeah, that really got me going. Most of the putts were from only around three metres, so I was putting it pretty close. My longest putt was on my last hole, from around five metres. So that was a great way to finish,” said the 25-year-old Luiten, who is searching for his first European Tour title.
Harrington ignited his title defence with a superb 40 feet chip-in eagle on the 13th hole before adding six more birdies against one bogey.
“That was the kick-start I needed. I’d given myself a few chances early on, but didn’t hole the putts. So in the back of your mind you start to think that it might be one of those rounds which gets away from you, even though I’d struck the ball quite nicely. But then when I holed that chip, I started thinking that it might go my way after all,” said Harrington.
Wi, a regular on the PGA Tour, birdied the opening hole before dropping two shots in the next two holes. He recovered with four straight birdies from the 13th hole but the highlight came when he holed out from the green side bunker on the second hole from 15 yards.
“I was very lucky with that! It was a very tough hole. When I had those two bogeys I was like, ‘Oh boy, I hope I don’t let this round get away.’ But I was able to make some birdies and I was pretty pleased,” said Wi.
Leading Rd 1 Scores (completed rounds only):
63 – Joost LUITEN (NED).
64 – Padraig HARRINGTON (IRL), Marcus FRASER (AUS), Gregory BOURDY (FRA).
66 – Charlie WI (KOR), James MORRISON (ENG), Nicolas MEITINGER (GER).
67 – LU Wei-chih (TPE), Jose Manuel LARA (ESP), Henrik STENSON (SWE).
68 – Anthony KIM (USA), Fredrik ANDERSSON HED (SWE), Stephen GALLACHER (SCO), Richie RAMSAY (SCO), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Joonas GRANBERG (FIN).
Note: 78 players to resume round one from 7.20am, Friday.