Golf

SMBC Open title-holder Jazz 2 strokes behind surprise leader Hamamoto

Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond made a promising start to the defence of his SMBC Singapore Open title with a four-under 67 to sit two strokes adrift of surprise clubhouse leader Kosuke Hamamoto yesterday.

Jazz has finished first, first and fourth in his last three starts and carried that brilliant form into Sentosa Golf Club to eclipse playing partners Justin Rose of England, a former world No. 1 and Olympic gold medallist, and Japan star Ryo Ishikawa.

Jazz, 24, showed some exquisite touches round the greens as he went bogey free. He picked up two birdies in each nine in good scoring conditions.

Thai-Japanese Hamamoto, playing at the SMBC Singapore Open for the first time, charged to a blemish-free 65 to lead by one from world No. 24 Matt Kuchar of the United States, Canada's Richard T. Lee, Thailand's Gunn Charoenkul and Japan's Rikuya Hoshino.

Kuchar, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, made an early run at the leader with a superb eagle on the 587-yard, par-five seventh. But a double bogey on the par-four 13th stalled his progress.

However, he bounced back with birdies on the 15th and 18th holes to finish second.

Lee mixed seven birdies and two bogeys in an impressive round while Gunn, who has had a string of top-five finishes on the Japan and Asian Tours in recent months, shot up the leaderboard with two late birdies.

Hoshino, 23, a two-time winner on the Japan Tour, soared into contention with birdies on the last three holes in fading light.

A 75-minute delay in the afternoon due to lightning activity put the tournament behind schedule. The late starters will have to finish their first rounds today with a 7.40am restart. The second round will start at 8am.

Golf