China’s Bai Zhengkai, a graduate from this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School, made a flying start on the opening day of the inaugural International Series Vietnam today shooting an unblemished eight-under-par 64.
Korean Taehee Lee, helped by two dazzling eagles in his last five holes, India’s Honey Baisoya and Lee Chieh-po from Chinese-Taipei also began brightly carding 65s to sit in second place – in what is the Asian Tour’s first event in Vietnam for seven years.
Filipino Miguel Tabuena, still in fine form after an outstanding start to the season highlighted by victory in The DGC Open presented by Mastercard last month, carded a 66, along with Jaco Ahlers from South Africa, Thai Gunn Charoenkul, China’s Chen Guxin, American Michael Maguire and Douglas Klein from Australia.
The US$2 million event is being played on a Greg Norman-designed links-style layout at KN Golf Links, in Cam Ranh, Khanh Hoa Province, in the south-central coast region of Vietnam.
“Feels nice, had a good round today,” said Bai, whose 64 set a new course record.
“Off the tee was great. I had a lot of wedges into the greens, so I was able to attack a lot of the pins. Made a few putts, it was pretty good.
“The course is kind of open, so I was able to hit some drivers off the tee.”
He was in danger of dropping a shot on his last hole, a par four, and had to lay up with his second but managed to get up and down for what he described as his best hole of the day.
Taehee Lee has won once before on the Asian Tour, having claimed the GS Caltex Maekyung Open in 2019 on home soil.
But any chance of contending this week appeared highly likely for the Korean at the start of the week.
He said: “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, wind was strong, I played bad, very bad, but today the wind is nothing. Course was easy today, many players low score.”
Two birdies on the front nine and another birdie on 10 laid the foundation for what was to come, as he eagled the par-five 14th, dropped his only shot of the day on 16, before another eagle followed on the par-five 17th. He then signed off in the perfect manner with a birdie on the last.
“I didn’t make any mistakes, there was no wind, so the course played easy,” he added.
Baisoya’s round will come as no surprise to many as the Indian has shot some stunning low rounds so far this season. A 62 at the International Series Thailand and a 65 at The DGC Open put him in the running in both events, although he was unable to keep that going. He tied for 34th in Thailand and equal sixth at The DGC Open.
“It was a very good round,” said Baisoya, who impressively made nine birdies, including four in a row from the sixth, but recorded two bogeys.
“I hit my ball well off the tee, my approach shots were good, and I made many putts but then I missed a lot of putts so it could have been better, but I’ll take it.”
The Indian sensationally holed out from a greenside bunker on 18 for a birdie three.
Lee Chieh-po had the distinction of going bogey free, with five of his birdies coming on the back nine.
“The course is very similar to my home course in Taiwan, the design, the green speed. I am feeling great, very comfortable,” said the Chinese-Taipei golfer, who finished second behind Australian Travis Smyth in the Yeangder TPC last year for his best Asian Tour result.
India’s Anirban Lahiri, the Asian Tour number one in 2015 and a seven-time winner on the Tour, carded a 69, current Asian Tour and International Series Order of Merit leader Andy Ogletree from the United States returned a 70 while Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the Tour’s top player in 2013, fired a 71.
Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho, winner of the World City Championship last month, came in with a 72, England’s Paul Casey a 74