Queenslander David Gleeson has fired his lowest round of the Asian Tour season to sit alongside Thai Phachara Khongwatmai at five-under-par 66, sharing the opening round lead at the US$300,000 Sabah Masters on Thursday with two others.
The 20-year-old Thai ignited his title ambitions after firing seven birdies against two bogeys to sit atop the leaderboard with Indonesia’s Joshua Andrew Wirawan, as well as Aaron Wilkin at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club.
Sabahan Ben Leong returned with a 67 to trail the leading quartet by one alongside in-form Joohyung Kim and Sungho Lee of Korea, India’s Rashid Khan and Wang Wei-lun of Chinese Taipei in the tournament, which is the ninth full-fiend event on the 2019 Asian Tour schedule.
Despite closing with a bogey, Phachara took pride in his opening efforts as he was able to fire at the flags all day and miss only one green in regulation.
“The aim was to hit fairway first and then aim for the green. I was able to do that today,” Khongwatmai said. “Many people struggle on these greens so hitting the fairways and greens are the keys. But I think I can putt on these greens now. I feel comfortable with it.”
Former Australian Amateur champion Gleeson was delighted to rediscover some of his best form.
“The greens are quite firm but I got a few birdies on some of the harder holes today. So yeah, just keep playing and looking forward to you know, setting up a few things to play well, just a few tournaments before Christmas, and I'm going to try and play a lot of golf next year,” Gleeson said.
“Nice to get that three birdies in a row. Just make some three to five-foot putts. You got to do your due diligence here because greens can be tricky. I played here back in 1999 when we had the first event here.
“The course was very long then. It’s quite interesting to see how it has changed after so many years. I was back home for a while before this week. Played a few events. Just been working on the game and see what I can do next year.”
A host of players, including Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat, Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman and Khalin Joshi of India, were tied in 10th place after carding matching 68s in the event that is supported by the Tourism Malaysia with an aim to boost tourism in Sabah.