STEADY starts from Scots David Drysdale and Peter Whiteford were overshadowed by a stunning back nine of 28 from Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil in the opening round of the Avantha Masters in India.
Drysdale signed for a five-under-par 67, one fewer than compatriot Whiteford, who is out to make amends for being disqualified from this event last year when he was in contention for a first European Tour triumph.
But they were left trailing in the wake of the leader as 24-year-old Phadungsil delivered a barrage of birdies on his back nine at Jaypee Greens near New Dehli.
He bagged seven in a row – one short of the European Tour record – before adding another one at the last to open with an 11-under-par 61, earning him an incredible five-shot lead. Only once has a bigger advantage been held after the opening round of a European Tour event.
“That’s my best-ever round,” admitted Phadungsil. “On the back nine I hit the driver better than the front nine. But I holed my putts – that’s why I made my score.”
Drysdale, playing in his eighth event of the season, had seven birdies, while Whiteford launched his title bid with a flawless four-birdie effort.
It was a significant performance from the Fifer given that he suffered the biggest disappointment of his career in the same event just over 12 months ago, albeit at a different venue.
Chasing his maiden European Tour title, Whiteford was only one behind heading into the final round but eagle-eyed TV viewers alerted the European Tour to an incident on the 18th fairway during the third round.
Whiteford’s ball moved fractionally after he had addressed it and, having already signed for an incorrect score, he was informed of his disqualification upon reaching the fourth tee in the last round. On a low-scoring opening day this time around, Craig Lee carded a 70, one fewer than Marc Warren, but Colin Montgomerie was unable to muster a birdie in his 76.
Spain’s Alvaro Quiros reached four-under on his return from injury, but then had two late bogeys and eventually signed for a 70, while defending champion Jbe Kruger had to settle for a 72 after a trip to the water at the 15th.
In Bangkok, meanwhile, Scotland’s Simon Yates was sitting in the top ten after the opening round of the Thailand Open.
Yates, who has been based in Thailand for a number of years, carded a six-under-par 66 at Thana City Golf & Sports Club to sit just two shots off the lead, held by Japan’s Koumei Oda.
A five-times winner on the Japan Tour, although not since 2011, Oda plundered 11 birdies on the 6,930-yard Greg Norman-designed course to lead from a group of six players on a packed leaderboard.