Thai Chinnarat on fire at Avantha Masters

Greater Noida, March 14: Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil set the stage alight when he opened his campaign at the 1.8 million euro Avantha Masters with a sensational 11-under-par 61 here Thursday.

The 25-year-old was only one shot away from equalling the Asian Tour’s low 18-hole score record as he amassed only 22 putts in his round to take a five-shot lead over five players bunched in second place at the Jaypee Greens Golf Course. They included Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat and current Order of Merit leader Chawalit Plaphol, India’s Abhijit Chadha, China’s Liang Wen-chong and Sweden’s Magnus Carlsson who signed for matching 66s at the event.

Chinnarat became the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he won his first title on home soil in 2005 at the age of 17 years. Eight years later, with three titles on the region’s premier Tour, he continues his form.

“It’s my best-ever round. My previous best was a nine-under par in China in 2007. So it’s definitely a great feeling today,” said Chinnarat.

Chinnarat marked his card with three birdies to reach the turn in 33. He then left all his rivals in his wake when he blitzed his outward-nine with an incredible 28.

“On the front nine I was hitting a lot of hook shots, so my putter really saved me. But on the back nine, I drove the ball better and my irons were also better, so that’s the reason why I scored so well. Today my game was very good so I will keep going,” said the Thai.

Local hope Chadha brought early cheers when he finished as the clubhouse leader in the morning.

“I’m feeling really good about this week. I was just raring to go. I like this golf course as it suits my game,” said Chadha, who marked his flawless card with six birdies.

Having turned professional last year, Chadha was part of the four-member Indian team that won the silver at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

“I don’t feel the pressure of playing in the Avantha Masters for the first time. The experience of playing many big international events during my amateur days has really helped me. The atmosphere at these tournaments was similar to that at the Avantha Masters in terms of international participation and the crowds,” said Chadha.

Liang continued his affair with India when he returned with a 66 to continue his push for his third Asian Tour victory. His last win on the Asian Tour was in India when he carded a 12-under-par 60 to set a new low 18-hole score in the opening round of the 2008 Indian Open.

Leaderboard:

61 – Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA).

66 – Abhijit Chadha (IND), Chawalit Plaphol (THA), Magnus Carlsson (SWE), Chapchai Nirat (THA), Wen-chong Liang (CHN).

67 – Joonas Granberg (FIN), Jaakko Makitalo (FIN), David Drysdale (SCO), Thomas Aiken (RSA), Rikard Karlberg (SWE), Scott Hend (AUS), Rashid Khan (IND), Scott Barr (AUS).

68 – David Howell (ENG), Peter Whiteford (SCO), Pablo Larrazabal (ESP), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), S.S.P. Chowrasia (IND), Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND), Anirban Lahiri (IND), Prom Meesawat (THA), Emilliano Grillo (ARG), Robert Coles (ENG), Brett Rumford (AUS), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Ashok Kumar (IND), Maximilian Kieffer (GER), Baek Seuk-hyun (KOR).

Selected scores

70 – Thongchai Jaidee (THA)

76 – Colin Montgomerie (SCO).

IANS