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Atwal, Hoey set early pace in Jakarta

March 24, 2005 18:42 IST

Former Asian number one Arjun Atwal and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey provided the early fireworks with matching eight-under-par 62s in the opening round of the US$1 million Enjoy Jakarta Standard Chartered Indonesia Open on Thursday.

Battling a head cold, Atwal's golf was hot as the Indian star enjoyed a spectacular round that included eight birdies at Cengkareng Golf Club.

Hoey, the 2001 British amateur champion, stumbled with two early bogeys before fighting back with eight birdies and an eagle to end the day alongside Atwal.

As the course is playing to a par 70 with two par fives reduced to par four challenges in the event, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, the co-leaders effectively established a new course record.

A stroke behind were South African Chris Williams, who enjoyed a bogey-free 63, and England's Matthew Cort.

Five players, India's Gaurav Ghei, Japan's Eiji Mizoguchi, American Ron Won and Australian duo Andrew Buckle and Scott Barr, a recent runner-up at the Thailand Open, are bunched at 64.

The tournament's drawcard Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, who needs a win to guarantee his spot in the US Masters next month, had a frustrating day on the greens en route to a 67 while reigning Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee drained a 50-foot eagle putt on his last hole for a 66.

Play was suspended for two hours from 2 pm due to a lightning storm which means that  57 players will return tomorrow morning to complete their first rounds.

Atwal, who turned 32 last Sunday, has won two European Tour-sanctioned events in his illustrious career and his last success at the Carlsberg Malaysian Open two years ago came after an opening 62.

"I hit some bad shots but didn't let it get to me. The course is there for the taking, you can make some birdies out there," said Atwal, who also plays on the US PGA Tour.

"I started with a 62 in my last European win and the club manager who was at the Mines Resort in Malaysia is now running this club here. It could be a good sign."

The Indian, who has five career titles in Asia, survived a late scare on his last hole at the par five ninth, pushing his second shot into thick bushes but recovered sufficiently by two-putting from 60 feet to save par.

"My cold is getting really bad and my ear blocked up on my back nine. I got really lucky on nine. Coming on my down swing, my ear kind of started to pop open and I couldn't stop it. I hit the worst shot that I've hit for a long time but did well to get my five," said Atwal, the Asian Tour number one in 2003.

The 26-year-old Hoey, who features on the secondary circuit, the European Challenge Tour, played in the same Walker Cup team in 2001 with the likes of Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty and Graeme McDowell, now established stars in professional golf. The Ulsterman has yet to attain the same success as his former teammates but a good start here could well change it all for Hoey.

"Graeme has been giving me encouragement over the past couple of years. He's gone up to 38th in the world and it shows anything is possible. Nick won in Singapore this year which was fantastic and Luke is doing so well. I hope I can make an impact and find my way onto the European Tour," said Hoey, whose highlight was a 70-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole.

Hooking up recently with a sports psychologist could also give Hoey the edge that he is desperately looking for. His self confidence was given a boost when he received a text message from mental trainer Mark Elliot, who wrote "Don't forget who you are. You are a good player" and Hoey lived up to the words.

"Sometimes I ask why I can't (achieve success) but you can't think of that. You just have to try and improve your game. My golf coach Andrew Nickelson has helped me with my technique and I'm working with Mark and he's giving me a lot of encouragement. He sent me a text yesterday and stuff like that really helps," he said.

Cort played on the European Tour for three seasons before losing his playing privileges in 2004. He turned his attention to the Asian Tour where he earned his card through Qualifying School and a win in Jakarta could give him a ticket back to Europe, especially if he maintains the form that saw him turn in six-under.

"It was good. I got off to a really fast start and got some shots close. I was working on an eight foot radius on the putting green yesterday and it seemed every putt was inside that and it kind of worked well for me. Six under after nine, and then to finish on seven, I guess I didn't take advantage.

"I was telling a lot of people before I came out for these two events that I don't have a ranking on the European Tour. Obviously I want to get back in. This start has given me a good chance but scoring will be very low. I've just got to keep making the birdies," said Cort, who has John Roberts as his caddie this week. Roberts caddied for Simon Dyson when the Englishman won the Asian Order of Merit in 2000.

Singapore's Mardan Mamat and Boonchu Ruangkit, who will make their debuts in next month's VISA Dynasty Cup against Japan, displayed some fine form with identical 65s to lie three behind the leaders.

Montgomerie, a seven-time European number one, bogeyed two par three challenges and missed several birdie opportunities as he finished the day five shots behind his playing partner, Atwal. Thongchai, playing in the same group, had a mid-round slump with three consecutive bogeys but finished strongly with three birdies and an eagle.

"It was nice to eagle my last hole as I had two straight three-putts on 17 and 18. Finishing on four-under puts me a little closer to the lead and I'm happy with that," said Thongchai.

The first round will resume at 7am on Friday, with round two set to begin at 7.30am.

Leading first round scores

62 - Arjun Atwal (IND), Michael Hoey (IRL)

63 - Matthew Cort (ENG), Chris Williams (RSA)

64 - Gaurav Ghei (IND), Ron Won (USA), Andrew Buckle (AUS), Scott Barr (AUS), Eiji Mizoguchi (JPN)

65 - Sam Little (ENG), Sam Walker (ENG), Johan Skold (SWE), Mike Cunning (USA), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Boonchu Ruangkit (THA), Shiv Kapur (IND), Roope Kakko (FIN), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL)

66 - Richard Moir (AUS), Anthony Kang (USA), Peter Fowler (AUS), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Brad Kennedy (AUS), Adam Fraser (AUS)

67 - Vernon Sexton-Finck (AUS), Matthew Morris (ENG), Stephen Browne (IRL), Pablo Del Olmo (MEX), Wang Ter-Chang (TPE), Colin Montgomerie (SCO), Frankie Minoza (PHI), David Griffiths (ENG), Rick Gibson (CAN), Gary Simpson (AUS)

68 - Rahil Gangjee (IND), Keith Horne (RSA), Miguel Angel Martin (ESP), David Bransdon (AUS), Robin Hodgetts (AUS), Marco Bernardini (ITA), Peter Gustafsson (SWE), Jarrod Lyle (AUS), Thammanoon Srirot (THA)

(57 players to complete round one on Friday morning)