India’s Shiv Kapur shot seven birdies over a nine-hole stretch as he overcame a calamitous start for a first round three-under-par 69 at the US$7 million CIMB Classic on Thursday.
The Asian Tour star battled hard to end the opening day in tied 12th place, six shots behind leader Ryan Moore of the United States in the lucrative event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the PGA TOUR.
“It was good. Obviously, a little bump to start but I think it's even more satisfying to come through after a bad start and shoot 69,” said Kapur, who dropped two bogeys and one double in his opening five holes at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course.
“Obviously four over after five holes, I said to my caddie, ‘look, I haven't really hit too many bad shots’. I had a bad lie in the rough on 14 and I should have probably played away from the water and made double there.
“And after that, I was swinging it well, hitting good shots. I just tried to get back to as close to par and once I did that, I just kept going and going and made seven birdies in my last 13 holes or in fact seven birdies in a stretch of nine holes.”
Moore fired 10 birdies to take a two-shot first round lead with a spectacular nine-under-par 63. Ranked 45th on the Official World Golf Ranking, he recovered from an opening bogey to lead from Major champion Keegan Bradley, who shot a flawless 65 at the challenging course.
Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia of Spain, who is making his debut at the US$7 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR, ended the day three shots off the pace in third position after a bogey-free 66.
Current Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand upstaged playing partner and world No 3 Phil Mickelson with a fine 67 to share fourth place with multiple PGA TOUR winner Rory Sabbatini, Boo Weekly, Chris Kirk and Chris Stroud. Korea’s K.J. Choi, an Asian Tour honorary member, was a further stroke behind after a 68.
Moore, who finished tied fifth at the inaugural 2010 CIMB Classic, enjoyed a birdie binged as he birdied all the par-three holes to charge into the lead at Asia’s first official FedExCup event. His superb round was the lowest score recorded at the West course but will not count as an official record as the preferred lies ruling was in play.
India’s other representatives in the CIMB Classic, which has attracted 18 of the world’s top-50 players in the field including the top-10 players from the Asian Tour, endured mixed fortunes.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, currently third on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, battled to a 72 after finishing with two birdies over his last three holes while Anirban Lahiri, who was runner-up in the Venetian Macau Open last week, settled for a 74 after shooting two birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey.
Kapur, who started from the 10th hole, said he reminded himself to stay positive despite his stuttering start as the front-nine stretch of holes was the easier to negotiate.
“You just got to take it in your stride and just keep plugging along and keep giving yourself birdie putts. I managed to hit a few close and bring it back. The course is playing a lot different than what it does in the Malaysian Open. The greens are much firmer and there's a big premium on hitting fairways. I think if you hit fairways then you've got a lot of birdie opportunities, but if you're slightly out of position, it's tough to hold the greens and make putts,” said Kapur.
“Obviously it's like a tale of two halves, the back nine is obviously playing a lot harder, not just because I played badly on it, but I think the front nine there's definitely more scoring opportunities.”
With no half-way cut in the elite 78-man field, Kapur knows he must keep his foot on the pedal to ensure he stays within striking reach of the leaders and a big payday on Sunday.
“It's a start. Being a couple over kind of takes you out of the tournament, but when you're three under, with a good round tomorrow you're still right in it, so I think I'd like to say the old cliche, ‘you can lose a tournament in the first day, but you can't win it.’ At least I haven't lost it on the first day,” said Kapur.
Scores after round 1 of the 2013 CIMB Classic being played at the par 72, 6924 Yards Kuala Lumpur GCC course (a- denotes amateur):
63 - Ryan Moore (USA).
65 - Keegan Bradley (USA).
66 - Sergio Garcia (ESP).
67 - Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Boo Weekley (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Chris Kirk (USA), Chris Stroud (USA).
68 - Gary Woodland (USA), K.J. Choi (USA), Martin Laird (SCO).
69 - Charley Hoffman (USA), Nicholas Thompson (USA), Shiv Kapur (IND), Charles Howell III (USA).
70 - Stewart Cink (USA), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Camilo Villegas (COL), Richard H. Lee (USA), Wade Ormsby (AUS).
71 - Jerry Kelly (USA), John Huh (USA), Lucas Glover (USA), Russell Henley (USA), Kevin Stadler (USA), D.A. Points (USA), Phil Mickelson (USA), Rickie Fowler (USA), Harris English (USA).
Image: Shiv Kapur