Kitayama leads Qualifiers on Tanjong

American Kurt Kitayama earned a spot at the SMBC Singapore Open after carding a six-under-par 65 at the Qualifying Tournament today.

It has been a great start to 2018 and a fruitful venture to Asia so far for the 25-year-old golfer. Yesterday, he celebrated his birthday by finishing tied-third at the Asian Tour Qualifying School to earn playing rights on the Asian Tour.

After topping the Qualifying Tournament, he’ll be looking forward to playing alongside the best players from the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour at the US$1 million event.

“The greens were really smooth and I made some really good putts. I adjusted to the speed early and I felt that I was in control for the rest of the day,” said Kitayama, who has plied his trade mainly in America.

Kitayama scored seven birdies at Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong course and his scorecard would have been flawless if not for a bogey on the 12th.

Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand also qualified for the SMBC Singapore Open after finishing in second place, one shot behind Kitayama. Gunn, also 25 years old, attributed his good round to his excellent driving and he’ll be looking to do better this year, after finishing tied-71st in Singapore last year.

“I have good memories of playing here. In the 2012 tournament, I finished tied-24th. But last year, I was just a few shots from being in the last place! My putting wasn’t great then, but I’m putting better this week!” he said.

Wolmer Murillo of Venezuela took the third and final spot after beating Puk Pradittan of Thailand and Narutoshi Yamaoka of Japan in a playoff, which was contested at Tanjong’s par-four 18th. The trio finished with matching 67s.

Yamaoka was first to go after faltering at the first playoff hole. At the third playoff hole, Puk carded a bogey after his approach shot landed into the greenside bunker. Murillo tapped in for par, and a spot at the SMBC Singapore Open.

“The greens here inspire you to play good golf and they give you an opportunity to assess your game. The ball listens to you because the greens are pure. They are lovely to play on,” said Murillo, who recovered brilliantly from the disappointment of missing the mark at Qualifying School the previous week.

“I can’t wait to play on the Serapong. I heard it’s a great golf course!” he added.

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