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TRIO SHARE OPENING HONOURS AT MACAO OPEN

India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar put up an outstanding display of golf by signing for a flawless seven-under-par 64 to grab the opening round lead with Korean duo Yikeun Chang and Giwhan Kim at the Macao Open on Thursday.

Bhullar, a former winner of the tournament in 2012, posted seven birdies while Kim was equally impressive at the Macau Golf and Country Club.

The 23-year-old Chang fired a superb back-nine 29 highlighted by four birdies and an eagle-two on the third hole.

The in-form Ajeetesh Sandhu of India signaled his strong intentions of winning a third straight title when he signed for a 66 to trail by two shots in fourth place with Thailand’s Danthai Boonma at the US$500,000 Asian Tour event.

Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao, Filipino ace Angelo Que and Wolmer Murillo of Venezuela, who just won his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title last week, are three shots off the pace in tied-sixth position.

Defending champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand battled to a 72 to tie in 47th place while reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia came in a further shot back in tied-65th position at the Macao Open, which is celebrating its 19th edition this week.

Did you know?

  • Bhullar needed only 27 putts in his round of 64. Starting from the 10th hole, Bhullar fired five birdies to turn in 31 before picking up two more birdies on his way home.
  • The 29-year-old Bhullar is a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour. He bounced back from a wrist injury, which he incurred in 2014, by winning the 2016 Shinhan Donghae Open. He went on to clinch his second title of the season two months later at the Indonesia Open.
  • 2016 was the second year that Bhullar won twice in a single season in his career. He last achieved that feat in 2012, the same year when he won the Macao Open.
  • Kim is playing in his fourth attempt at the Macao Open. His opening 64 is his best round at the Macau Golf and Country Club. The 26-year-old missed the halfway cut in his last three attempts.
  • Kim sits in 68th position on the current Order of Merit. He enjoyed a tied-sixth place finish at the Shinhan Donghae Open on home soil last month. He needs to finish inside the top-60 on the final Order of Merit to keep his Tour card for 2018.
  • Kim missed only one green in regulation.
  • Chang topped the class at the 2016 Asian Tour Qualifying School. He finished 95th on the Order of Merit that year and returned to the 2017 Qualifying School where he successfully regained his card.
  • Chang has enjoyed a solid season so far in 2017, winning twice on his domestic circuit and earning his Major debut at The Open earlier in July.
  • Chang came close to winning his first Asian Tour title at the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei before settling for tied-second place.
  • Chang navigated his way around the greens in only 24 putts for his opening 64.
  • Chang’s back-nine 29 is the lowest nine-hole score in the field today.
  • The leading five players after the opening round are all in their twenties. The youngest is Danthai at 21 years of age and the oldest pair is Bhullar and Sandhu at 29.

Players quotes:

Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) – First Round 64 (-7)

It was a good round overall. I hit the ball really good. I just kept on giving myself birdie opportunities and the game went accordingly to my plan. The putter went a bit cold on my back nine. I didn’t hole any birdie putts coming in but I gave myself a lot of good looks.

There are still a lot of golf left to go. I sank some good long putts for birdies today. I made a 30-footer on 14 and nailed another long birdie putt on 17 from close to 30 feet. I read the line perfectly for those two putts. I also nailed a trickling right to left putt from 15 feet on 11.

It was a good solid round overall. It wasn’t easy out there. The wind was just confusing. It was coming from all over the place. Even on my last few holes coming back, the wind was still blowing hard. To shoot a seven-under under these conditions, I am really happy.

I think the course condition is the best that I have played here so far. The greens are rolling so good. They are just honest. If you’re stroking the putt well, you will definitely go low this week. The goal is to repeat what I did today and get on to a good momentum for tomorrow.

Giwhan KIM (KOR) – First Round 64 (-7)

Everything was good for me today. I drove the ball well, hit my irons well and miss only one green today. As I make more and more birdies, I don’t feel as much stress going into the round.

On the second hole, I hit my second shot with a three-wood and make two easy putts for birdie. I guess that helped me get the round going.

I hit it really good off the tee. I was also able to get my ball on the greens. There were lesser trees this year so I guess that helps. Like on the 10th hole, the charting down of trees helped me because I hit it a little bit left off the tee but I was still able to get it on the green.

In the past, I would have trouble hitting it over the trees and get the ball on the green.

Yikeun CHANG (KOR) – First Round 64 (-7)

It was windy today but a lot of trees have been cut down so the course isn’t playing so hard this week. I knew I had to shoot a low score to be on top of the leaderboard. My front nine, which was from the 10th to 18th, was pretty good. I was hitting it good but I missed a couple of short putts.

I birdied the second and eagled the third. I gained my momentum from there. I hit a driver off the tee on the par-four third hole and my second shot from 40 yards went into the hole. Everything seemed pretty easy after that! I added three straight birdies after that eagle.

I made a 30-footer birdie putt from the left fringe on the fourth. That was the other highlight for me today. The course was firmer last year compared to this year and it seems narrower with the trees. The conditions were really good this year.

I had a one-week break back home in Korea last week, after playing eight weeks in-a-row. I didn’t really touch the clubs last week. I thought I needed some rest. I felt really refreshed coming into this week and happy to get off to a good start.

Scores after round 1 of the Macao Open being played at the par 71, 6606 Yards Macau GcC course (am – denotes amateur):

64 – Giwhan KIM (KOR), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), Yikeun CHANG (KOR).

66 – Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND), Danthai BOONMA (THA).

67 – HUNG Chien-yao (TPE), Angelo QUE (PHI), Wolmer MURILLO (VEN).

68 – Teemu PUTKONEN (FIN), Dodge KEMMER (USA), Natipong SRITHONG (THA), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA).

69 – Johannes VEERMAN (USA), John CATLIN (USA), Michael BIBAT (PHI), Arie IRAWAN (MAS), Chikkarangappa S. (IND), Josh SALAH (USA), Ryan MCCORMICK (USA), Danny CHIA (MAS), Adilson DA SILVA (BRA), Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA), Shubhankar SHARMA (IND), Jbe KRUGER (RSA).

70 – John Michael O’TOOLE (USA), Chiragh KUMAR (IND), Daniel CHOPRA (SWE), Sam CYR (USA), Rashid KHAN (IND), Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA), Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND), Prom MEESAWAT (THA), Khalin JOSHI (IND), Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA), Gareth PADDISON (NZL).

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