x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Thailand’s ‘coconut’ Panuphol Pittayarat with early lead at The Championship

The 21-year-old Thai jumped to the lead at the event, jointly held by the European and Asian Tour, with a 9-under 63 on Thursday.

Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand in action on Day 1 of The Championship at Laguna National held at Laguna National Golf & Country Club on Thursday in Singapore. Andrew Redington / Getty Images / May 1, 2014
Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand in action on Day 1 of The Championship at Laguna National held at Laguna National Golf & Country Club on Thursday in Singapore. Andrew Redington / Getty Images / May 1, 2014

Thailand’s Panuphol ‘coconut’ Pittayarat took advantage of a soft and short Laguna National course in Singapore to fire a 9-under 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 No 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 (Dh5.5m) 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 8-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 8-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 2-under 70. A score matched by last week’s China Open winner Alexander Levy of France.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE