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Harris leads Asian Q-School

January 12, 2005 20:37 IST

American Corey Harris shot a blistering eight-under-par 64 to grab the first round lead in the Asian Tour Qualifying School final stage at the Palm Resort Golf and Country Club in Johor Bahru, Malaysia on Wednesday.

Harris was in superb form over the Cempaka Course in his search for an Asian Tour card, shooting nine birdies against a lone bogey to open up a two-shot lead over Malaysia's Shaifubari Muda, Australian David Bransdon and Zimbabwean Sean Farrell.

Shaifubari was an equally impressive with his 66 as he ended the day as the best local player in the field. A total of 199 players are battling for 40 Asian Tour cards for the 2005 season.

Shaifubari, who last played on Tour in 2000, is visiting the Qualifying School for the eighth time. He shot seven birdies on the card over the Allamanda Course.

"I drove the ball nicely and hit some irons close to the pins. My longest birdie putt was from eight feet, so it's a good start. The Asian Tour has many tournaments now and I'm hoping to regain my playing rights again."

The 31-year-old Bransdon produced seven birdies and one eagle at the Allamanda Course. He is looking to make a return to the region after featuring on Tour in the mid-1990s.

"I played quite nicely. Putted well with only 26 putts three bogeys and was pretty solid all day," said Bransdon, whose highlight was a 15-foot eagle putt that found the bottom of the cup on the third hole.

He featured regularly in Asia in 1995 and 1996, finishing 39th on the money ranking in his first year in the region before concentrating on his efforts back home. He finished the recent PGA Tour of Australasia season ranked 28th.

"I missed the US Tour qualifying school last year and when I saw the Asian Tour Schedule, it looked pretty good and I said why not have a go at it," said the Melbourne-based Bransdon, who has three career wins on the developmental circuit in Australia.

Arjun Singh, who has been ranked in the top-25 in Asia before losing his card last season, started strongly with a 68 at the Cempaka Course, thanks to five birdies against a lone bogey.

"It's nice to get off to a good start. I hit it close a lot of times and enjoyed my round. I used my three wood regularly from off the tee to keep the ball in play and it was a good solid round," said Singh.

While the pressures of trying to earn an Asian Tour card has resulted in dramatic collapses in the past amongst many players, Singh said being in his first Qualifying School did not weigh heavy on his shoulders.

"I didn't feel any pressure at all and that's probably why I played well. Compared to last year, I felt so much pressure when I was struggling to keep my card. I have a country exemption for 2005 but I want to get into the joint sanction events and would need a high finish here … that's the main goal," said Singh.

Compatriot Shiv Kapur, touted as a potential star in Asia, got off to a good start with a bogey-free 69 with three birdies on his front nine at the Cempaka layout.

"I played well on the first nine and no bogeys is good on the Cempaka which is the tougher of the two courses here.

"I made some good par putts on the back nine which played harder and it was a good solid round, I'll take it," said Kapur, the 2002 Asian Games individual gold medal winner.

Thailand's promising youngster Wisut Artjanawat was amongst those who shot a 68 which was matched by former European Tour regular Matthew Cort of England.

Leading first round scores:

64: Corey Harris (USA); 66: David Brandson (Aus), Shaifubari Muda (Mal), Sean Farrell (Zim); 67: Olle Karlsson (Swe), John Wither (Sco) 68: Matthew Cort (Eng), Jin Yong-Gab (Kor), Paul Marantz (Aus), Arjun Singh (Ind), Brian Nosler (USA), Park Jun-Bum (Kor), Wisut Artjanawat (Tha), Jochen Lupprian (Ger), Stephen Van Vuuren (Rsa).

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