Higa takes the lead with birdie blitz at Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019

Thu 14 Feb 2019

Higa takes the lead with birdie blitz at Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019

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Lopburi, Thailand, February 14: Japan’s Kazuki Higa set the pace with a brilliant six-under-par 64 thanks to an early birdie blitz in the opening round of the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019 on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Higa took his place on top the leaderboard with a bogey-free round highlighted by six birdies at the ฿4million (approximately US$123,000) event hosted by Thai veteran star Thongchai Jaidee.

Four players trail two shots behind in tied-second following matching 66s, including Thailand's Natthapong Niyomchon, Chinnarat Phadungsil and Chawalit Plaphol, as well as Korea’s Soomin Lee at the 13th Military Circle Golf Course.

Starting on the first, Higa made a fast start with five consecutive birdies to make the turn in 30. He grabbed another birdie on hole 10 and eight pars on his way home for a 34 in his back nine.

“I started out very well and was on a roll. My tee shots were very accurate off the tee which helped on this course since the fairways are so narrow.

“I was honestly just very lucky today. I haven’t been putting well since the start of the year. I couldn’t get the putts rolling in the second nine but I just stayed out of trouble,” said Higa, who totalled 26 putts.

The talented Japanese first burst into the scene with a maiden wire-to-wire victory on the ADT in Bangladesh in April in his very first attempt last year. He went on to notch five top-10 results in 2018 but would narrowly miss out on his Asian Tour card after finishing eighth on the ADT Merit ranks.

“I am very happy to have opened with a low round, I missed the cut at the last ADT event because I wasn’t confident in my swing. But if I stay out of trouble and continue with the same game plan I know it will be a good week,” added Higa.

Chinnarat, a three-time Asian Tour winner, credited Thongchai’s course advice he received at the start of the week to his opening round where he traded six birdies against two bogeys.

“This course is very difficult. Before this week I spoke to Thongchai and he gave me advice on how to play some of the holes, since he (Thongchai) grew up playing on this course.

“If you are not strategic with where you place your drives you might end up in a tight spot. Like on hole eight where I made bogey, I hit a good drive but it bounced right and I was blocked by a tree,” said the Thai, who holds the record of being the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he won the Double A International Open at the age of 17 years and five days while still an amateur .

Play was first suspended at 4.32pm local time due to lightning threats before it was later abandoned for the day at 6.30 pm due to fading light.

A total of 54 players resumed their first round at 6.45 am local time on Friday with the second round starting at 6.45am local time as scheduled.

The Thongchai Jaidee Foundation 2019, jointly-sanctioned by the All Thailand Golf Tour and the ADT, was inaugurated in 2015 with the intention of providing more playing opportunities for the region’s rising stars as well as to draw attention to Thongchai’s charitable foundation.

The leading seven players on the final ADT Order of Merit will earn playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2020 season.

All ADT events offer Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. The winner will receive a minimum of six OWGR points while the top six players and ties will also earn points based on a sliding scale.

Leading first round scores:

64 - Kazuki Higa 

66 - Natthapong Niyomchon , Chinnarat Phadungsil , Chawalit Plaphol , Soomin Lee 

67 - Itthipat Buranatanyarat , Sadom Kaewkanjana , Kettawan Pookawanach 

68 - Chayutpol Kittirattanapaiboon , Janne Kaske , Jakraphan Premsirigorn , Miguel Carballo , Settee Prakongvech , Aman Raj , Tawit Polthai , Jaturon Duangphaichoom , Piya Swangarunporn 

69 - Kosuke Hamamoto , Matt Killen , Seungjae Maeng , Thaworn Wiratchant , Peradol Panyathanasedh , Sorachut Hansapiban , Udorn Duangdecha , Raththee Sirithanakunsak , Borworn Chaisri 

Ends.

About Asian Development Tour

The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.