(Reuters) - Australian Matthew Griffin moved into contention with an opening round three-under-par 68 at the Solaire Open on Thursday, his first event on the Asian Tour since overturning a suspension imposed by the circuit for playing on a rival tour.
Griffin was joined in the Philippines field by compatriot Terry Pilkadaris (70), who along with Dutchman Guido van der Valk and Malaysian Anis Helmi Hassan were suspended by the Asian Tour for refusing to pay fines imposed for competing in events on the rival OneAsia circuit.
After a long process, a Singapore court ruled in 2012 that the Asian Tour had to repay the fines imposed on the four golfers, thus ending the suspension.
Griffin, 30, was two shots off the pace in a tie for fifth after the first round of the $300,000 event at the Country Club in Manila. Pilkadaris, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, was tied for 18th.
Griffin told Reuters that it was his first Asian Tour event since the 2010 Malaysian Open and that he planned to play “a bit” on the Tour this year.
He said he was competing in the exemption category, the status he held prior to the court case.
Griffin had upset the Asian Tour by playing in the Chengdu Open, Maekyung Open, SK Telekom Open and Indonesian Open on the OneAsia Tour between April and July 2010, while Pilkadaris played in three of the events.
The Asian Tour suspended the golfers for refusing to pay $5,000 fines imposed for playing in the rival events.
The players argued that the penalty was unfair and that they should be allowed to play elsewhere if the Asian Tour did not stage a tournament the same week.
World number 243 Griffin has been playing on the OneAsia, Korean and domestic tours since the case, while Pilkadaris has competed on a number of tours including the European and Challenge circuits as well as the second tier U.S. tour.
The Solaire Open is the second Asian Tour event of the season and will conclude on Sunday.
Australia’s Sam Brazel and James Ryan Lam of the Philippines lead after the first round.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston and Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Josh Reich