MANILA (Reuters) - Singaporean Mardan Mamat boosted his chances of retaining his Asian Tour card for next season by making light of the strong winds to leap into a share of the lead at the Manila Masters after Thursday’s first round.
The 47-year-old fired eight birdies in a seven-under-par round of 65 to share the lead at the $1 million event with Japan’s Daisuke Kataoka, 21 years his junior.
Mamat has won three times on the Asian Tour, including the 2012 Philippine Open, but has struggled this year and is 74th in the Order of Merit race with the top 60 retaining playing privileges for next season.
“I hit the ball solid from tee to green and managed to hole some putts. It’s not easy out there, especially on the front nine where it was really windy,” said Mamat, who missed only one green in regulation at the Jack Nicklaus designed Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.
“I’m trying to not think about keeping my card. It’s not the end of the world for me if I don’t make it into top-60 on the Order of Merit. I want to enjoy my golf.”
Last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was a shot back in tied third alongside Malaysian Danny Chia, who is also looking for a good finish this week to boost his chances of retaining his card.
Kiradech, who suffers from a thyroid disease, has missed many events this year because of a knee issue resulting from an operation he had when he was 10. He has opted for periods of rest rather than further surgery but the problem has not cleared up.
“I was actually hesitating if I should play this week because my knee is not feeling too good,” the Thai said. “I only decided on Monday to play but I will try my best and we will see how it goes.”
Local favorite Juvic Pagunsan, Asian Tour Order of Merit winner in 2011, led the home charge with a bogey-free 67 to sit two back in a tie with Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Sam Brazel, American Anthony Kang and Taiwan’s Hung Chien Yao.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Julian Linden