Thursday, April 25, 2013


Icheon, South Korea, April 24: Asian Tour winner Kieran Pratt kept Australia’s flag flying high on the world stage again after carding a flawless five-under-par 67 to take a share of the first round clubhouse lead at the weather-disrupted €2,205,000 (Approximately US$2.8 million) Ballantine’s Championship today.
Poor visibility and rain in the morning led to play being suspended and with over two hours of play lost, all 78 players from the afternoon session will have to return at 7.30am on Friday morning to resume their first round.
France’s Jean-Baptis Gonnet, Sweden’s Johan Edfors, England’s Matthew Baldwin and Korea’s Kim Gi-whan joined Pratt atop the leaderboard after they returned with matching 67s at the Blackstone Golf Club.
2010 Open Champion and world number seven, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa is one shot back of the leaders at four-under through 16 holes when play was suspended due to fading light.
Pratt is no stranger to success, having won his maiden Asian Tour title in Myanmar last year.
The 25-year-old Australian, who was once ranked 15th in the World Golf Amateur Ranking, however knows he has to keep himself grounded to keep up Australia’s proud record of having wins in Thailand, India and the United States in the past two months.
“That's a great start, but the tournament probably starts on Sunday really.  So I'll try to get myself into position to contend and then we'll go from there,” said Pratt, who is among the 10 Australians from the Asian Tour competing at the Ballantine’s Championship this week.
Edfors, who has triumphed twice on the region’s premier Tour in China and Thailand in 2006 and 2009 respectively, is determined to return to his winning ways having made only two cuts in seven appearances on the European Tour so far this year.
“I had a really tough year last year both on and off the golf course but I've done my preparation really well this year.  I've done all the practice that is needed and I guess I now need to be patient to make it happen and I did that well today,” said Edfors.
The Swede started well when he birdied the third and fourth holes before picking up further shots on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes.
Edfors’ momentum was then halted by the play suspension which forced players off the course for over two hours.
The Swede resumed play on the par-four 11th with a bogey and could not extend his advantage for the outright lead after coming home with an inward 36.
“I was really happy I came out of the block pretty good there on the front nine, five-under and played some really, really good golf.  Then we had the fog delay there, and I didn't really sleep very much last night, so I was a bit tired when we started playing again to be honest,” said Edfors.
“I then started off with a bad three-putt and only managed to make one birdie coming in.  So I was a bit disappointed with my back-nine but overall it was really a good start,” added Edfors.
Meanwhile Asian Tour honorary member Y.E. Yang found himself trailing behind the clubhouse leaders by three shots after an opening 70.
Yang, who earned the distinction of being Asia’s first Major winner when he won the PGA Championship in 2009, will have to tame the elements if he wants to earn another honour of being the first South Korean to win the Ballantine’s Championship.
“I’m quite used to the hot weather of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and also the chilly weather of Korea and the United States,” said Yang.
“I know that as a golf player, I need to overcome those difficulties, including the weather conditions and prepare myself to perform well. However, it was tough today and it was not that easy out there,” said Yang.
Par 72 Yardage 7281 
67 - Jean-Baptiste GONNET (FRA), Johan EDFORS (SWE), Kieran PRATT (AUS), KIM Gi-whan (KOR), Matthew BALDWIN (ENG).
68 - Peter LAWRIE (IRL), LEE Jung-hwan (KOR).
69 - David HOWELL (ENG), Rikard KARLBERG (SWE), RYU Hyun-woo (KOR), KIM Dae-sub (KOR), Ricardo GONZALEZ (ARG), Fabrizio ZANOTTI (PAR), Javier COLOMO (ESP).
70 - Espen KOFSTAD (NOR), Y.E. YANG (KOR), Stephen GALLACHER (SCO), Marc WARREN (SCO), Romain WATTEL (FRA), HWANG Jung-gon (KOR), Berry HENSON (USA), Peter WHITEFORD (SCO).
71 - Bernd WIESBERGER (AUT), S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND), Richie RAMSAY (SCO), Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA), Shiv KAPUR (IND), HAN Min-kyu (KOR), Damien MCGRANE (IRL), Jose Manuel LARA (ESP), HONG Soon-sang (KOR), SHIN Yong-jin (KOR).
72 - Kristoffer BROBERG (SWE), Lorenzo GAGLI (ITA), BAE Sang-moon (KOR), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), Soren KJELDSEN (DEN), Eddie PEPPERELL (ENG), Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA).
Selected scores
73 - Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND)
74 - Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA)

Scott Jamieson +1 after 15 holes.
Paul Lawrie + 3 after 15 holes



 Louis Oosthuizen finished the weather-affected first day of the Ballantine’s Championship one shot off the top of a packed leaderboard in South Korea.
The World Number Seven, who is making his debut in this week’s €2,205,000 event, covered the front nine at Blackstone Golf Club in just 30 strokes, but dropped two shots after the turn to finish the day on four under par.
The South African still has two holes of his first round left to play after a two hours and ten minutes suspension caused by heavy rain and poor visibility in Icheon, near the capital city Seoul.      
Oosthuizen said: “I got off to a great start, and was hitting it really well early on. But then on the back nine the wind came in and the weather got worse, and I miscued two shots and paid the price. But overall I haven’t hit it that well for a long time, so it was very encouraging. I was striking it very nicely on the range this morning, and then managed to take it onto the course with me this afternoon. So I’m very happy.”
 The early pace was set by England’s Matthew Baldwin, Sweden’s Johan Edfors, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Korean Gi-whan Kim – who eagled the last hole – and Australian Kieran Pratt, all of whom managed to complete their five under par rounds of 67 after the delay.
Gonnet and Pratt, who closed with three birdies in succession, were the only members of the leading quintet to keep the bogeys off their cards, and the Frenchman was understandably delighted with a round which was his lowest to par this season.
He said: “It was good to put my name up there straight away, because I haven’t played like this for more than a year. I hit it very straight off the tee and my putting was great, which it was last week. So I’m pleased I managed to keep the same feelings on the greens.”
Edfors, a winner of three European Tour titles in 2006, has only made two cuts this season, with a tie for 56th place in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship his highest finish to date. But the Swede is on course to better that after notching six birdies and a solitary bogey.
He said: “I was really happy I came out of the blocks pretty well on the front nine, I played some really, really good golf. Then we had the fog delay there, and I didn’t really sleep very much last night so I was a bit tired when we started playing again.
“I started off with a bad three-putt, and then only managed to make one birdie coming home. So the back nine was a bit disappointing, but overall it’s still a really good start.”
In-form Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was alongside Oosthuizen on four under par when bad light brought a premature end to his round at 7.03pm.  
The duo, who share sixth place with Ireland’s Peter Lawrie and Korean Jung-hwan Lee, will resume their rounds at 7.30am on Friday morning.



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