Dubai-based Shiv Kapur in action on the Asian Tour in Taipei. Image Credit: Supplied

Defending champion Wang Wei-hsiang picked up today where he left off in last year’s Mercuries Taiwan Masters by shooting a six-under-par 66 to take the first-round lead.

A bogey-free scorecard at Taiwan Golf and Country Club, with four birdies on the front and two on the back, saw him top the leader board again in the $1 million event and comfortably handle the fact that this year the event is back on the Asian Tour, unlike last season when, because of the global pandemic, it had to be played as a local event.

Dubai-based Shiv Kapur (Ind) shot a first round of four under par, 68, to lie in tied seventh.

Shiv shot five birdies and a solitary bogey over the 6,923 yards, par 72 course with two nines of 34.

Solid start

Shiv told Gulf News after his round, “It was a solid start...I did very well to scramble every time I was out of position. The course this week requires discipline and you cannot take on certain flags. I have an early start tomorrow, so I hope to capitalize on the morning conditions.”

Dubai-based MG Keyser (RSA), representing Jumeirah Golf Estates, shot an opening 74 to lie in tied 74th place.

Thailand’s Sarit Suwannarut, Donlaphatchai Niyomchon and Nitithorn Thippong, India’s Rashid Khan, and Hung Chien-yao from Chinese-Taipei shot 67s to all be tied second.

Suradit Yongcharoenchai from Thailand, the winner here in 2019, and Chinese-Taipei star Chan Shih-chang fired 68s, along with four other players.

Remarkably, when Wang Wei-hsiang triumphed in 2021, it came a year after his brother Wang Wei-hsuan had been victorious – again when, due to COVID-19, the event was not on the Asian Tour schedule.

He has engaged the services of local professional Chen Yu-zhen to caddie for him this week, which based on today’s round, could well mean he is the man to beat this week.

10 months

Sarit chose laundry over practice yesterday, but that rest day paid dividends today when after dropping a shot on the first he birdied the second and third before more birdies followed on seven, 11, 15 and 16.

As expected Chan, a four-time Asian Tour winner including two in the last 10 months, is in the hunt, making five birdies and dropping one shot.

Thailand’s teenage amateur star Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat came in with a 70 to put himself in a good position to make the halfway cut, something which he didn’t do in last week’s Yeangder TPC, which was his first Asian Tour event since June.

“I am happy with that, I am going to be honest, I have not been playing great, I didn’t play well last week,” said the 15 year-old, who won the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup on the Asian Tour in April.