Flying across 18 time zones before an early morning tee time may not have been ideal for Hideto Tanihara. But the Japanese golfer had no complaints after benefiting from the luck of the draw yesterday at the SMBC Singapore Open.
The world No. 54 fired seven birdies under calm conditions at the Sentosa Golf Club against a solitary bogey for a six-under 65 that was matched by South Korean Kang Kyung Nam. They were later joined by Satoshi Kodaira, who finished his round in near darkness.
They are the clubhouse leaders of the US$1 million (S$1.43 million) tournament and hold a slender advantage over American Han Seung Su, Malaysian Gavin Green and Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert (all shot 66). South African Shaun Norris was a further shot adrift in joint-seventh, followed by Singapore's Quincy Quek who shot 68 and was tied-11th.
All but Kodaira and Tangkamolprasert had teed off in the morning session. Not only did they find the Serapong greens soft and receptive to their irons, they avoided the 21/2 hour lightning delay that disrupted the afternoon groups.
Tanihara, 38, arrived here on Tuesday after competing at the Sony Open in Hawaii and suffered from jet lag on Wednesday night, hours before his 7.50am start time.
He said: "I couldn't sleep that well and kept waking up… My back is also a little stiff from the long flight… But when you are playing well, it does not bother you."
(69 players yet to complete)
65 Hideto Tanihara, Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn), Kang Kyung Nam (Kor)
66 Han Seung Su (USA), Gavin Green (Mas), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (Tha)
67 Shaun Norris (Rsa)
68 Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Miguel Tabuena, Antonio Lascuna (Phi), Toshinori Muto, Tadahiro Takayama (Jpn), Quincy Quek (Sgp)
71 Sergio Garcia (Esp), Choo Tze Huang (Sgp)
First round resumes at 7.30am. Second round scheduled to start at 8.35am.
The 14-time Japan Tour winner needed just 28 putts and noted: "Putting was good and greens are tricky but I was able to read the speed today. My approach shots were solid and I could attack the pin and had lots of birdie chances."
Rising star Green, 23, was equally aggressive from the tee box. Two of his drives measured 340 and 345 yards and his confidence was similarly booming.
He said: "I played a little smarter than I did last year too (he missed the cut as an amateur). I was just cruising along towards the end of the round."
Spanish star Sergio Garcia never got out of first gear on his tournament debut. The world No. 15 shot a 71 and struggled on the huge sloping greens. He took 34 putts.
He said: "The greens are extremely fast, so a lot of the putts are difficult to get to tap in range."
Play had stopped at 3.29pm and resumed at 5.55pm before being halted again at 7.15pm due to fading light. That meant 69 players will have to return today to complete their opening round. They will have a short break before starting the second round as the order of play is reversed.
Among those were world No. 7 and three-time Singapore Open winner Adam Scott, defending champion Song Young Han (both two-under through 16 holes) and former world No. 1 Ernie Els (two over through 16).
Kodaira, who could barely see his ball as he sunk a 3m birdie putt on the par-five 18th, was glad he could set his alarm to a later timing.
He said: "It was a big difference to be able to finish today. I'm happy to be done with that round."
SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN
Day 2: StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, 11am