New dad Hung shoots 66 for clubhouse lead

The ‘nappy factor’ played its part in propelling the unsung Hung Chien-Yao of Chinese Taipei to the first round clubhouse lead in the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club on Thursday.

Hung, who is chasing his first victory on the Asian Tour, shot five-under 66 for a one-stroke advantage over Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines and Japanese duo Yuta Ikeda and Yoshinori Fujimoto thanks to an eagle at the par-five fourth (his 13th hole) and four birdies against a sole bogey.

Heavy rain and lightning caused a delay of more than three hours with half the field failing to finish their rounds. Play will resume at 7.30am on Friday morning with the second round beginning at 9.40am.

When play was halted on Thursday, World Cup Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III was three under after 11 holes while Paul Casey, the highest ranked player in the field at world number 24, was even par also after 11.

The 54-year-old Love was two under after four holes when play was first suspended and added another birdie at the eighth hole after the re-start.

Chan Shih-Chang of Chinese Taipei, Japan’s Taihei Sato and Richard Jung of Canada had all moved onto four under early in their back nines when darkness halted play.

The 26-year-old Hung credited a more mature attitude since getting married and recently welcoming his first child – an event said to boost performance in sportsmen – for his play.

“I guess my mindset has changed quite a bit from last year, with the responsibilities I have now. I couldn’t quite get used to it last year but coming to the first event of the season this week, I told myself to just come here and enjoy myself,” said Hung, who was 53rd on the Asian Tour moneylist last season.

“Enjoy every tournament that I get in and then go back and spend time with my family. That was my mindset coming here. I am really happy to become a father at the age of 26.”

Hung added that he was also a bit lucky during the round.

“I have not shot such a good score here before. I just thought my mental game was good today,” he said.

“I can’t tell you which holes were good and which holes were not. I can just say I am very lucky today. A lot of shots I didn’t hit good but still managed to get in good positions.”

In-form Tabuena was left to rue a bogey at his final hole as he slipped behind Hung.

Tabuena, a winner at the Queen’s Cup in Thailand at the start of December, had shown his love for Sentosa Golf Club with some aggressive play before his blemish on the ninth hole saw him sign for a four-under 67.

Ikeda, a multiple winner on home soil, and Fujimoto, who has two victories to his credit, led the Japanese charge after equally sharing 10 birdies.

Ryo Ishikawa, the prince of Japanese golf who is now fully fit after a serious back injury, played some scintillating stuff before two bogeys in his last three holes marred his round.

He signed for a 69 to tie with playing partner and defending champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, who was not feeling 100 per cent. The 2017 Masters winner shot four birdies and two bogeys in a battling round. Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, the third player in the group who was joint fourth last year, finished a shot better off with a 68.

World number 40 Matt Fitzpatrick of England matched that score with a bogey-free round while the entertaining Hosung Choi of Korea, one of the early front runners, shot a 69 after dropping three shots on his back nine.

With a tied eighth place finish last year to go alongside his fourth in 2016, Tabuena has course form as well as being a recent winner and he looked in control for 17 holes.

Starting at the 10th hole just behind the featured groups, the 24 year old snared four birdies in his opening nine holes before a bogey at the third hole (his 12th of the day) halted his progress.

But birdies at the fourth and fifth saw him retake the lead only for him to falter on the ninth.

“I am happy with the way I played today. It’s going to be tough out there. You have to make a lot of birdies and hit the fairways and try to attack the pins,” said Tabuena.

“Two three putts today cost me. That was on the third and ninth holes. That were the only two bogeys I made today.”

Ishikawa, the joint halfway leader last year, looked uncomfortable over his drive on the par-five seventh and he hooked it behind a tree. His recovery hit some rocks and in the end he did well to escape with a six.

His three-putt on his last hole (the ninth) will have left a bad taste in his mouth after a lot of palatable fare.

“I am still having trouble with my shots, and I am not confident enough,” he said. “My putting was not so bad, but not perfect.”

Amateur Ervin Chang and Nicholas Fung flew the Malaysian flag high with matching 68s. Chang gained his spot in the field after becoming the first player from his country to win the Singapore Amateur Open last July.

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