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Thursday May 1, 2014 MYT 8:12:06 PM
Thursday May 1, 2014 MYT 8:12:57 PM
by patrick johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Thailand's Panuphol 'coconut' Pittayarat took advantage of a soft and short Laguna National course to fire a nine-under-par 63 to lead The Championship by one shot after Thursday's first round.
Heavy rain and a lightning threat delayed the start of play at the European and Asian Tour event, with preferred lies employed meaning the world number 451's bogey-free round would not count as a new course record.
It was of little concern to the 21-year-old, given the nickname coconut by his father who is also his caddie, after a sparkling performance featuring only 22 putts.
"I was very happy with how I played. I didn't see it coming," Panuphol told reporters before explaining his fruity name.
"Its common to have nicknames back home in Thailand. I have got a brother nicknamed 'tamarind' and a sister named 'lemon'."
Panuphol missed the cut in each of his three events on the Asian Tour this year but he went bananas with birdies on Thursday to lead Scotland's Scott Jamieson, American David Lipsky and South Korea's Kim Byung-jun by one.
The $1.5 million event was due to be hosted in the homeland of Kim, the joint worst ranked player in the field at 1,529 in the world, but the European and Asian Tour announced the switch of venues to Singapore last month after "staging issues".
Singaporean Quincy Quek, playing the course the wrong way around, finished with two birdies to join the group at eight-under as a number of Asian Tour players made a strong start to the event lacking Europe's elite.
Another Thai, Arnond Vongvanij, known as 'bank' because he was born the night after his mother took her exams for her Masters degree in financial banking, briefly threatened golf's golden number of 59 before settling for a 65.
Arnond opened his round with four birdies as he reached the turn in 30. He added further birdies to reach eight-under after 11 holes only for a double-bogey five at his penultimate hole dumped him down into a share of seventh under fading light.
Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India was tied 16th after a 67, while defending champion Brett Rumford was well down the field after carding a two-under 70. A score matched by last week's China Open winner Alexander Levy of France.
(Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Justin Palmer)
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