Dubai-based Shiv Kapur grabbed the lead in the $700,000 Yeangder TPC on Thursday by carding a brilliant eight under par 64 on day one, in an event that marks the first time the Asian Tour has visited Chinese Taipei in three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The four-time Asian Tour winner overpowered the course with an eagle, eight birdies and just two bogeys at Linkou International Golf and Country Club, in Taipei.
Chinese-Taipei’s irrepressible star Chan Shih-chang and Malaysian Ben Leong came in with 66s, with India’s Ajeetesh Sandhu and Prom Messawat from Thailand, both former winners of this event, firing 67s, along with Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong, a two-time champion this season, Chinese-Taipei’s Lu Sun-yi, an amateur, Lee Chieh-po and Lin Keng-wei, and Miguel Carballo from Argentina.
Trusting caddie's knowledge
“I putted really well, I have a local caddie out there, whose name is Su [Su Ching-hong, a National team player], who was arranged for me by James Chan [Chan Shih-chang] and the Tour and he is reading the greens really well, so I am just trusting him,” said Kapur, who won the Yeangder Heritage here on the Asian Tour in Chinese-Taipei in 2017.
“I have always struggled around the greens here after all these years, but I am holing putts and he was a big help today.”
Kapur round started on 10 but his game really got going on his second nine when he eagled the first before making birdie on the next four.
The Indian added, “Season so far has been a bit lacklustre, struggled with injuries in the middle of the season. My game has been close, but it has been very frustrating. I have been making a lot of cuts but not been playing well at the weekend. I feel like I was close, and I was looking for a low round and I could not have asked for a better start.”
The Indian star suffered a foot injury and was out of action for five weeks in the middle of the season but luckily did not miss too many events because it was in the summer.
“I tried to make compensations and so I lost my swing a little bit. I feel like it is coming back for the business end of season, two good weeks here will set me up rest of the year,” he said.
Chan is the leading player from his country on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 21st place and has been in resplendent form since the Asian Tour restarted at the end of last year, winning the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship, which was the Tour’s first event back. He also won the Royal’s Cup this season in Thailand for his fourth Tour win.
A first Asian Tour victory on home soil is high on his list of priorities and that goal began well on Thursday with a round made up of seven birdies and one dropped shot, where he was also helped in a big way by his experienced caddie.
Jostling for positions
Two weeks ago, Leong was in contention at the Shinhan Donghae Open in Japan after a third-round 65 but disappointingly fell back on the last day with a score that was 10 shots worse. He recorded seven birdies and one bogey today.
Sandhu won here in 2017 and despite a solid start he felt there is still plenty to work on. While the Tour’s big-name players jostled for position, much of the attention also focused on Chinese-Taipei’s Hsieh Cheng-wei. The 14-year-old amateur, whose home course is this week’s venue, returned an impressive 69, which included birdies on first three holes. It beat his best score around the course by a shot.
Shiv’s second round tee time is at 12.20pm off Tee 1 in Match 31 with playing partners: Rory Hie (Singapore) and amateur Ratchanon Chantananuwat (Thailand) who shot 71 in 51st and 72 in 66th respectively.