Thursday, March 28, 2013


Chiangmai, Thailand: A change in putting grip sparked Thai veteran star Prayad Marksaeng to a spectacular seven-under-par 65 at the inaugural Chiangmai Golf Classic today.

The 47-year-old home hero, chasing his sixth Asian Tour victory, stole the thunder from South Africa’s Ernie Els, who battled to a 69 with a short putter in his bag for the first time since the end of 2011.
China’s upcoming player, Hu Mu, showed his growing potential with a solid 66 after ending his last five holes with an eagle and two birdies to tie for second place with Prom Meesawat of Thailand and American Jonathan Moore on the region’s premier Tour, which is celebrating its 10th season.
Asia’s first Major champion Y.E. Yang of South Korea shot a 69, as with three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee, who needs a victory this week to qualify for the Masters Tournament next month. Last week’s Maybank Malaysian Open winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand came in with a 71 in the US$750,000 full-field Asian Tour event.
Sweet-swinging Prayad switched to the cross-handed putting grip after shooting pars in his first four holes and then went on to make five straight birdies to turn in 31. He carded three more birdies against a lone bogey to top the leaderboard.
“For the first few holes, I couldn’t putt. I didn’t have a good feel. After I finished the fourth hole, I changed my grip to the cross-handed grip and then I kept making birdies,” said a beaming Prayad, whose last Asian Tour victory was in 2007.
“The greens here are very quick. I talked to my caddie and we checked the lines together on every hole. Normally, I read my own lines. This course is good. I feel comfortable here as it’s very tree lined, very similar to Japan.”
Despite turning 47 in January, Prayad still has youthful exuberance and has won three domestic titles this year including his home Open two weeks ago. He credited a healthy lifestyle for keeping him on top of his game.
“I’ve kept fit, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I sleep early every night, go to bed at 9pm and then wake up at 5.30am. When I’m home, I just play golf and practice a bit. At the start of the year, I practiced really hard, hit a lot of golf balls but when we’re into the season, I don’t hit so many balls. My golf swing is always the same, so I don’t really need to practice too much.”
Four-time Major champion Els was happy with his short putter after touring the Alpine course without a bogey and taking 29 putts. With an impending ban on the anchored putting method, Els, who won the British Open last year with a belly putter, reverted to the short stick in Chiangmai.
“I thought it was good,” said Els of his short putter. “I missed quite a few but I felt comfortable with it. I made some good ones on my front nine. I missed some greens so I had to up and down a few times and there were some good putts which I had to make. I’m working hard at it when I’m away for tournaments. It felt good today.”
Els believes he is capable to firing a low round at the Alpine course to give himself a chance of winning a first title in 2013. “The course is wonderful. It’s in unbelievable great shape. I was trying to really squeeze a lot out there today but didn’t quite happen. But I feel there’s a good round out there and I’ll keep searching,” said Els, who is nicknamed “The Big Easy”.
After watching close friend Kiradech claim a big win in Malaysia last weekend, a fired-up Prom, seeking his second Asian Tour win since his maiden title in 2006, set the early mark with a boge-free 66.
“It is a great start. I still left a bunch of birdies on my back nine (he started from the 10th tee). But it was still a good round. My irons were pretty good,” said Prom. “I missed a short putt on the fourth hole. That was an easy putt. The first nine holes are very tricky.”
The 23-year-old Hu, regarded as China’s next great hope, underscored his potential with a strong finish. He eagled the 14th hole from 15 feet and then ended his round with two closing birdies.
“It felt great. I know the course is playing tough but I saw a six-under in the early round so that was what I was aiming for. The front nine plays a little bit tougher and I had a few birdie looks but it all lipped out. On the back nine I started holing some putts,” said Hu, who trains under David Leadbetter.
“The course suits my game and my eye. I was happy with my driving. I drove my ball well. I kept the ball in play and kept myself out of trouble. My short game was good. I hit only 11 greens but made 24 putts. I just want to keep building on that, keep my confidence up and get ready for the weekend.”
The Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT is primed to extensively promote Chiangmai as a top golfing and tourist destination through the four days of live broadcasts on the Asian Tour’s global television platform, which reaches over 200 countries and 650 million homes.
Par 72. Yardage 7,471
65 - Prayad MARKSAENG (THA).
66 - Prom MEESAWAT (THA), HU Mu (CHN), Jonathan MOORE (USA).
67 - Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA), Jason KNUTZON (USA), Digvijay SINGH (IND).
69 - Ernie ELS (RSA), Thongchai JAIDEE (THA), LIN Wen-hong (TPE),  SIDDIKUR (BAN), Shiv KAPUR (IND), Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA), LIN Wen-tang (TPE), YANG Y. E. (KOR), David LIPSKY (USA), BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR), Antonio LASCUNA (PHI).
70 - Koichi KITAMURA (JPN), Tetsuji HIRATSUKA (JPN), Mardan MAMAT (SIN), Sam CYR (USA), Scott BARR (AUS), Zaw MOE (MYN), Anthony KANG (USA), Chapchai NIRAT (THA), Jake HIGGINBOTTOM (AUS), Boonchu RUANGKIT (THA), Varan ISRABHAKDI (THA), Udorn DUANGDECHA (THA), Elias BERTHEUSSEN (NOR), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), MO Joong-kyung (KOR), KIM Seng-yong (KOR), Mithun PERERA (SRI), CHOO Tze Huang (SIN), Chase WRIGHT (USA), Wasin SRIPATTRANUSORN (THA), Wade ORMSBY (AUS), Danny CHIA (MAS).

73 James Byrne (Scotland).





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