Nov 21, 2019: Young Thai talent Phachara Khongwatmai took advantage of his solid approach shots to sign for a five-under-par 66 and grab a share of the opening-round lead at the US$300,000 Sabah Masters on Thursday. India’s Rashid Khan sharing fifth place just a shot behind the jammed leader board. He carded spotless round with six birdies till 17th, but a double at the last hole pulled him to skip the lead.
Rashid scored four-under-par 67 and is lying at T5. Indian trio Aman Raj, Udayan Mane, and Khalin Joshi are another shot behind Rashid and lying in T10. Aman and Khalin shot six birdies and three bogies each and Udayan shot four birdies and a lone bogey to end the day at three-under-par 68.
The 20-year-old Phachara, ignited his title ambitions after firing seven birdies against two bogeys to sit atop the leaderboard with Indonesia’s Joshua Andrew Wirawan, as well as Aaron Wilkin and David Gleeson of Australia at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club.
Sabahan Ben Leong returned with a 67 to trail the leading quartet by one alongside in-form Joohyung Kim and Sungho Lee of Korea, India’s Rashid Khan and Wang Wei-lun of Chinese Taipei in the tournament, which is the ninth full-fiend event on the 2019 Asian Tour schedule.
Despite closing with a bogey, Phachara took pride in his opening efforts as he was able to fire at the flags all day and miss only one green in regulation. Gleeson was delighted to rediscover some of his best form as he capped a solid outing to mark his lowest round yet this season.
A host of players, including Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat, Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman and Khalin Joshi of India, were tied in 10th place after carding matching 68s in the event that is supported by the Tourism Malaysia with an aim to boost tourism in Sabah.