Han leads by four and "in heaven" after opening 62
Korea's Han Min-kyu shot a nine-under-par 62 to take a four-stroke lead in the first round of the US$1.2 million Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola, the final event of the inaugural OneAsia season.
Han carded 11 birdies at the par-71 Hyatt Regency Coolum layout on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to finish four ahead of Ryan Haller of Australia.
Stuart Appleby, runner-up in last week’s Australian Open, shot 67 to tie for third with Volvo China Open champion Scott Strange and fellow Australians Andrew Dodt, Matthew Griffin and Henry Epstein.
Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-ching bogeyed the par-four 18th to finish with a 68, level with Adam Scott, winner of last week’s Australian Open, Greg Chalmers, Stephen Dartnall, Bronson La’Cassie and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson.
China’s Li Chao and former Major winners John Daly of the USA and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell were among a host of players to shoot even-par 71 and lie in a share of 32nd place.
The 1.88-metre tall Han, who spent five years in the US from the age of 16, teed off from hole 10 and needed only 22 putts as he bagged six birdies before back-to-back bogeys on 18 and one, and then picked up five more shots on the front nine.
“I feel like I’m almost in heaven. I feel like Tiger Woods today. Maybe it’s my body but his brain,” Han joked, admitting his ultimate ambition was to ‘beat Tiger’.
“Putting was the best part of my game today, so perhaps I can shoot eight-under on Friday. It’s a very good course, quite short but not easy, as there are many bunkers,” added the 25-year-old, who lies 16th on the Korean Tour Order of Merit.
Haller recovered from a bogey at the first to post six birdies, including four on the way in.
Appleby, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, was the biggest name on four-under after recording seven birdies and three bogeys in an up-and-down round.
Scott, with tennis star girlfriend Ana Ivanovic in the gallery, threatened to go low after picking up four birdies on the back nine, but three bogeys and two birdies on the front left him three-under and six shots behind the surprise leader.
“I got off to a great start and just didn't keep it going. I felt like I could have had a much better round, but it's a solid start and something to build on,” Scott said.
“Like everyone, I've only played those new holes a couple of times and I ran into some problems, so I may need to rethink my strategies and maybe not be quite as aggressive.”
The Australian PGA Championship is the final event on both the Australasian Tour and OneAsia calendars for 2009, ensuring the respective Order of Merit winners for both circuits will be crowned on Sunday.
The inaugural OneAsia season teed off with April’s Volvo China Open won by Australian Scott Strange, who leads the Order of Merit.
Korea’s Bae Sang-moon won his second straight title at September’s Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open, Chinese number one Liang Wenchong won October’s Midea China Classic and former world number three Adam Scott won last week’s Australian Open in Sydney.
Leading first round scores - par 71 - Australian unless stated:
62 – Han Min-kyu (KOR)
66 – Ryan Haller
67 – Stuart Appleby, Andrew Dodt, Henry Epstein, Matthew Griffin, Scott Strange
68 – Chan Shih-ching (TPE), Greg Chalmers, Stephen Dartnall, Bronson La’Cassie, Adam Scott, Tim Wilkinson (NZL)
69 – Paul Marantz, Jason Norris, Aaron Townsend
70 – Robert Allenby, Lee Min-chang (KOR), Geoff Ogilvy
71 – Li Chao (CHN), John Daly (USA), Michael Campbell (NZL)
72 – Shintaro Iizuka (JPN), Song Ki-joon (KOR)
73 – C.J. Gatto (USA), Xu Qin (CHN), Choi Ho-sung (KOR), Eom Jae-woong (KOR), Lee Seong-ho (KOR)
December 10, 2009