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Home > Sports > News > Report

Jeev in joint-lead at Thailand Open

March 03, 2005 20:22 IST

The yoga practising duo of Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Aussie Scott Barr shared the opening day's honours at the Thailand Open with sizzling seven-under-par 65s on Thursday.

Singh, a four-time winner in Asia but not since 1999, launched another bid to end his winless streak with a nine-birdie spree at the impressive Blue Canyon Country Club before being joined at the top of the leaderboard by Barr, who was flawless with a bogey-free card in the afternoon.

The co-leaders were a stroke clear of Japan's Yoshinobu Tsukada and Gohei Sato in the US$500,000 Asian Tour event. Veteran Noppajak Meesom, who splits his time playing on the local circuit and teaching golf in Bangkok, emerged as the surprise flagbearer for the Thai contingent, firing a 67 in the event title sponsored by Thai Airways International.

Last week's Myanmar Open champion Scott Strange of Australia, Simon Yates of Scotland and American Greg Hanrahan carded 68s while a further stroke back were the likes of Chinese Taipei duo Lin Keng-chi, Asia's number one in 1995, and Sung Mao-chang.

A resurgent Singh was on song and credited strong iron play and putting for his good start.

"I like to play on a tough course like this one as you need to think your way round," said Singh, whose last victory was in Thailand's capital of Bangkok at the 1999 Lexus International.

"I've been playing well over the past year and struck my irons solidly and putted well. I felt I could have shot 10-under as I had two other lip-outs. I haven't won for a while and I guess it will take some time to get the nerves to settle down again. One of my goals is to win this year and to get my US PGA Tour card."

Singh was tipped for international fame after becoming the first Indian to earn a European Tour card in 1997 but endured a lean patch until recently. The son offormer Olympic 400m runner Milkha Singh said a recent combination of yoga and hard work has started to produce the rewards again.

"I've been working on my mental side of the game and yoga plays a part. I'm also hitting twice the number of balls these days at the range and I feels like it's all coming together now for me," said Singh, who finished runner-up in the season-opening Okinawa Open last December.

Singapore-based Barr started practising yoga early this year with the same yoga master, Sukdev Singh, who helped Jyoti Randhawa become Asian number one in 2002.

"I'm looking for an edge and with yoga, the breathing exercises and flexibility help you to relax and stay focus on the course.

"I drove it great and hit good shots. I've also worked on my technique for two years and it's coming off," said Barr, who is currently fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with a second and 11th finish from four starts this season.

The 35-year-old Tsukada enjoyed a blazing finish with four closing birdies to stay within striking distance. Wielding new clubs after switching equipment sponsors, the Japanese peppered the flags towards the end of his round for easy conversions.

"I changed my clubs before Myanmar last week but kept hooking the ball. I spent a few days adjusting my swing and struck it close today," said Tsukada, who made his Major debut at the British Open last July.

"I do not have a full exemption to play on the Asian Tour but I would like to play in more events as the Tour here is growing bigger and the players are very friendly. I guess I'll have to win this week to get my card through the winner's exemption," said Tsukada, who also has playing rights on the Japan Tour.

The 46-year-old Nappajak produced one of the shots of the day when he holed out from 110 yards on the par four 16th for an eagle as he raised local cheers. "I hit a nice wedge that took one bounce before finding the hole," he said. "I missed only one green in regulation today but wasn't really happy to three-putt two holes for bogeys."

Thailand's established stars such as Prayad Marksaeng, Thammanoon Srirot, Thaworn Wiratchant and Prom Meesawat failed to break par in the opening round at the 39th staging of the Thailand Open, which was moved from Pattaya to Phuket by organisers in an effort to help promote the resort island following last Decembers's tsunami tragedy.

Leading first round scores: 65 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Scott Barr (AUS; 66 - Yoshinobu Tsukada (JPN), Gohei Sato (JPN); 67 - Noppajak Meesom (THA); 68 - Simon Yates (SCO), Scott Strange (AUS), Greg Hanrahan (USA); 69 - Gerry Norquist (USA), Lin Keng-chi (TPE), Ron Won (USA), Sung Mao-chang (TPE), Richard Moir (AUS), Seuk Jong-Ryul (KOR), Martin Doyle (AUS); 70 - Chinarat Phadungsil [A] (THA), Chris Rodgers (ENG), P. Gunasegaran (MAS), Chung Joon (KOR), Andrew Buckle (AUS), Anthony Kang (USA), Harmeet Kahlon (IND), Chang Tse-peng (TPE), Bryan Saltus (USA), M. Sasidaran (MAS), Shiv Kapur (IND), Richard Lee (NZL); 71 - Ronnachai Jamnong (THA), Angelo Que (PHI), Craig Warren (AUS), Andrew Butterfield (ENG), Nakarintra Ratanakul [A] (THA), Mike Capone (USA), Andrew Pitts (USA), Chris Williams (RSA), Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA), Gaurav Ghei (IND), Lu Wen-teh (TPE), Jochen Lupprian (GER), Keith Horne (RSA), Lee Sung-man (KOR).

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