Quincy on fire
Singapore pro sizzles with his putter as Panuphol lights up Laguna
A burst of cheers and applause shattered the serenity of the Masters Course of the Laguna National mid-afternoon yesterday, as the ball disappeared into the cup at the ninth hole.
Singapore's Quincy Quek, who started at the 10th tee-box, had just sunk an eight-foot putt for birdie to end the first day of The Championship at eight-under 64.
The 27-year-old's stunning round saw him finish the first round in joint-second spot, alongside Scotsman Scott Jamieson, South Korean Kim Byung Jun and American David Lipsky.
Speaking after his round, Quek said: "I could not have started any better, I was killing it out there on the greens today... I had 20 putts which I have never gotten before.
"It is quite a crazy one for me but we still have three more days to go.
"The putter was working well for me. I gave myself chances by hitting the ball closer than I normally do.
"Playing well in the first round has definitely put me in a good position going forward."
Quek and the chasing pack were one shot off Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat, who shot a sensational 63 to top the 156-strong field in the US$1.5 million ($1.88m) tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the European Tour.
However, the 21-year-old could not claim a new course record - Australian Nick O'Hern shot a 64 in 2002 - because golfers were allowed preferred lies due to the wet weather.
The rule will apply for the remaining three rounds.
Said Panuphol: "It was a good day out there, the weather was good and I holed a lot of putts.
"I was just trying to hit straight out there and managed to hole a lot of putts; a lot of them were unexpected.
"I am very happy with how I played today and feeling good about my game now."
The Thai, who turned professional in 2007 at the age of 14, is still searching for his big win of his professional career, after finishing second at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters in 2011.
Panuphol's compatriot, Arnond Vongvanij, threatened to better his countryman's score, carding six birdies after his first nine, teeing off on 10th.
The 25-year-old, nicknamed "Bank", collected three more birdies on the first, second and sixth to draw level with Panuphol but he came unstuck at the eighth when he double-bogeyed.
He eventually posted a 65 and is tied for sixth.
He said: "I got an unlucky break on the eighth. I dropped two shots there when it should have been an easy par.
"But overall I'm hitting it good and putting well so I will just try and do what I did today and hopefully get a better result tomorrow."
First round play was delayed for an hour due to a thunderstorm and 18 players will return at 7.40am today to complete their first round after fading light forced them off yesterday.
I could not have started any better, I was killing it out there on the greens today... I had 20 putts which I have never gotten before.
- Quincy Quek
Leading scores after first round:
63 Panuphol Pittayarat
64 Scott Jamieson, David Lipsky, Kim Byung Jun, Quincy Quek
65 Mithun Perera, Kristoffer Broberg, Felipe Aguilar, Arnond Vongvanij
66 Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Prom Meesawat, Baek Seuk Hyun, Scott Barr, Moon Kyong Jun, Gregory Bourdy
67 Boonchu Ruangkit, Anirban Lahiri, Graeme Storm, Chan Kim, Chinnarat Phadungsil, Scott Hend, Anders Hansen, Jeev Milkha Singh, Victor Riu.
69 Lam Zhiqun
71 Mardan Mamat, Lam Chih Bing
73 Koh Dengshan.
A wait to see if Asian Tour will help
Singapore's top golfer Mardan Mamat had already booked his flight and secured a visa for South Korea, in anticipation of competing in The Championship there this year.
This was before the Asian Tour and the European Tour, which co-sanction the tournament, announced last month that the competition would be relocated to Singapore due to "staging issues".
Now, the 46-year-old is hoping that the Asian Tour would pick up the extra cost he incurred, especially after the European Tour announced they would do so for their golfers.
Approached by The New Paper yesterday at the Laguna National, Mardan, who carded a one-under 71 in the first round of the tournament at Laguna yesterday, said: "I've already spoken to the Asian Tour last week and they said they would get back to me.
"The decision to move the tournament was made at the last minute and it was a nice gesture on the European Tour's part to help their golfers out."
India's SSP Chowrasia is in a similar situation as Mardan.
He said: "These situations happen sometimes and we golfers totally understand it, and I am okay about it.
"It (the extra cost incurred) is just a small amount, and it was great that the tournament was relocated here because it would have been easy to cancel it, instead."
India's Jeev Milkha Singh - who is a member of both the European and Asian Tours - was also affected by the last-minute change.
He confirmed the European Tour had sent out a directive to its members on how to reclaim expenses for the extra costs incurred for the late switch.