Thai golfer Thitiphun leads at TPC

Taipei, Sep 12 (IANS): Thai golfer Thitiphun Chuayprakong birdied the last two holes for a six-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Tournament Players Championship (TPC) Thursday.

Searching for a first Asian Tour victory, Thitiphun sank a 10-footer eagle putt on his first hole to spark a remarkable round which included seven birdies against three bogeys at the Linkou International Golf and Country Club.

His playing partner Kim Gi-hwan of Korea was flawless in a round of 67 while rookie Sam Brazel of Australia and Chiragh Kumar of India returned with identical 68s at the $500,000 event.

Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who won the 2010 edition, was a further shot back in fourth alongside Asian Development Tour (ADT) graduate Hsu Mong-nan of Chinese Taipei and Australians Adam Groom, Matthew Stieger and Jake Higginbottom.

Thitiphun rode on a hot putter when he sank two huge birdie putts from 25 feet on holes 15 and three.

"I eagled the 10th hole and from there I felt confident. I was lucky with the putter but I'm still not feeling very confident with my driver because I made a swing change two weeks before the start of this event," said Thitiphun, currently ranked 60th on the Order of Merit.

Kumar battled a flu to return with a 68 that was highlighted by an eagle-three on the 18th hole.

"I just told myself to grind it out because I was sick. That kind of helped because I wasn't trying anything extra. I missed a lot of putts but stayed patient and didn't let that affect me at all," said the 29-year-old, who came into prominence when he finished second at the 2011 Indian Open.

Defending champion Gaganjeet Bhullar shot a 73 for tied 46th position. The Indian stands a chance to qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October if he can remain in the top-two on the Order of Merit before the cut-off date Oct 14.

Scores after Round 1:

66 - Thitiphun Chuayprakong (THA)
67 - Kim Gi-whan (KOR)
68 - Sam Brazel (AUS), Chiragh Kumar (IND)
69 - Adam Groom (AUS), Thaworn Wiratchant (THA), Matthew Stieger (AUS), Jake Higginbottom (AUS), Hsu Mong-nan (TPE)
70 - Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Panuwat Muenlek (THA), Rahil Gangjee (IND), Chan Kim (USA), Sung Mao-chang (TPE), Timothy Stewart (AUS)
71 - Lin Kuan-po (TPE), Kieran Pratt (AUS), Berry Henson (USA), Thanyakon Khrongpha (THA), Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Lien Lu-sen (TPE), Yeh Chang-ting (TPE), Chen Hao-sen (TPE), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Antonio Lascuna (PHI), Darren Beck (AUS), Koichi Kitamura (JPN).


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Title: Thai golfer Thitiphun leads at TPC

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