NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE ASIAN TOURJAKARTA – New Zealand’s David Smail showed no signs of rustiness following a three month break to take the clubhouse lead after the first round of the U.S. $1 million Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open.
He fired a four-under-par 68 at Emeralda Golf Club, where the course is proving to be a stern test for the high-calibre field.
China’s Liang Wenchong, second in this event in 2010, and Australian Rohan Blizard carded 69s.
The tournament is jointly sanctioned by OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) and is the opening event of the season for both circuits.
Six players were unable to complete their rounds as play was suspended at 6.15pm local time due to bad light.
Smail, a five-time winner on the JGTO, has not played in a tournament since last December’s Australian Masters, but the rest appears to have paid dividends.
“I haven’t played for a couple of months so I am delighted to have started so well particularly on what is a very tough golf course," said the towering Smail, who stands six feet five inches tall (1.96 m).
"You have to drive it well and I hit most of the fairways.”
The narrow fairways, thick rough and windy conditions turned Emeralda into a difficult layout, but Smail got the better of it making five birdies and dropping just one shot.
He started his round on the back nine with birdies on 10 and 11, and later repeated that feat with birdies on one and two.
His most recent victory in Japan came in 2005 and after a strong start today he is hopeful of an improved year.
“The last couple of years have not been that solid in Japan but I am hoping for a better season,” he said.
The round also marked a triumphant return for Smail as he last played at Emeralda in the 1995 Alfred Dunhill Masters, where victory went to his compatriot Michael Campbell.
Liang, meanwhile, made a birdie on his final hole for an encouraging finish.
“I am excited to be playing this week as I really want to win on the Japan Tour. I have been paying more attention to physical training in the winter and I am hoping that will pay off as the season progresses,” said Liang.
His second place finish in Indonesia two years ago, combined with victories in the Thailand Open and Luxehills Chengdu Open, helped him claim the OneAsia Order of Merit title.
Last year he was unable to repeat that kind of form, but he feels he feels his game is slowly returning.
He added: “I am not thirsty for results. I am just staying patient and enjoying playing each week.”
Japanese star Hiroyuki Fujita, an 11-time winner on the JGTO, finished two under along with compatriots Yoshikazu Haku and Kazuhiro Yamashita, Australian Ashley Hall and Koreans Kim Meen-whee, Lee Dong-min and Kim Seung-hyuk.
Indonesia’s Andik Mauludin ended the day as the leading local player with a 71.
Andik, who has won twice at Emeralda on the domestic circuit, made the turn in two-under-par 34 and moved into a share of the lead after birdies on 10 and 14. However, the wheels came off when he double bogeyed the 15th and then dropped a shot on 16.
“Honestly, I got too excited attacking the pins and forgot that the greens are quite hard today," he said. "The green speed and the thick rough also created some problems.”
His countryman Rory Hie, who finished second in this event last year, fired a 73 while defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant from Thailand shot 75.
New Zealand’s Michael Hendry, the winner in 2010, fell victim to a little-known golf rule and was disqualified.
The Kiwi golfer’s club caddie pulled the flagstick from the hole after he played a chip shot on the ninth green and the ball unerringly found the cup.
If Hendry’s ball had missed the cup no penalty would have resulted, but the ball could have struck the stick had the flag not been pulled.
Ordinarily the infraction would result in a two-shot penalty, but Hendry -- who won the title in 2010 and was joint second last year -- did not realise the error and signed for a three over par 75.
He was disqualified under rule 6.6, which deals with signing an incorrect scorecard.
LEADING FIRST-ROUND SCORES
68 David Smail (NZ)
69 Liang Wenchong (CHN), Rohan Blizard (AUS)
70 Ashley Hall (AUS), Kim Meen-whee (SKOR), Lee Dong-min (SKOR), Kazuhiro Yamashita (JPN), Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN), Yoshikazu Haku (JPN), Kim Seung-hyuk (SKOR)
71 Andik Mauludin (INA), Jay Choi (USA), Mamo Osanai (JPN), Chawalit Plaphol (THA), Jamie Arnold (AUS), Park Jae-bum (SKOR), Satoshi Tomiyama (JPN)
72 Lee Seong-ho (SKOR), Stephen Leaney (AUS), Huang Wenyi (CHN), Naoto Nakanishi (JPN), Scott Arnold (AUS), Masaya Tomida (JPN), David Oh (US), Masanori Kobayashi (JPN), Choi Ho-sung (SKOR), Nick Cullen (AUS)