SMBC Singapore Open 2018

Golf: Day off pays off for Kurt Kitayama

Kurt Kitayama teeing off during the first round of the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course yesterday. The American was flawless on the back nine, making four birdies.
Kurt Kitayama teeing off during the first round of the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course yesterday. The American was flawless on the back nine, making four birdies.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mini break helps Kitayama to first-round clubhouse lead after hectic start to his week

Kurt Kitayama's week just keeps getting better and better.

First, he celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday by earning his Asian Tour card at the tour's qualifying school event in Thailand.

A day later, the American was in Singapore and secured a berth for the SMBC Singapore Open by winning the Monday qualifier by a single stroke.

Yesterday, he shot a five-under 66 on Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course for a share of the US$1 million (S$1.32 million) tournament's first-round clubhouse lead alongside reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia.

"I feel really good now, really confident. I started with a birdie (on the 494 yard, par-four third hole) and just let it roll from there," said the University of Nevada-Las Vegas graduate, who fired six birdies to go with one bogey.

"It's great to have a good round early in the tournament, as it proves that I am able to score well."

The California native added that compared to the 6,683 yard, par-72, New Tanjong course, where the qualifying tournament was held, the 7,398 yard, par-71 Serapong is "a lot tighter".

PROOF IN THE PUDDING

It's great to have a good round early in the tournament, as it proves that I am able to score well.

KURT KITAYAMA, Singapore Open joint first-round clubhouse leader, on making a good start.

"I had some good tee shots which I think is the biggest thing for this course. The Serapong is tough off the tee and it has big greens," Kitayama noted.

His ball striking was flawless on the back nine, where he made four birdies, though. He did not miss a single fairway and hit all nine greens in regulation.

He did admit to being a little worn down from his hectic schedule.

"I'm a little tired but I'm hanging in there. I finally got a day off (on Wednesday) so I just practised in the morning, went to see some sights and just get my mind off golf. It helped today."

Also on five under are 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Thai Tirawat Kaewsiribandit. Both were on their 17th hole when play was suspended at 5.03pm because of lightning.

Said Tirawat: "I putted very well today. I also hit irons well and found many fairways.

"Before this tournament, I had an injury on my forearm so I just wanted to relax and look to play well."

The 28-year-old had a share of the lead after the third round last year but eventually faded from contention with a final-round 74.

SEA Games team gold medallist and amateur Gregory Foo led the local charge with a 69. Compatriots Mitchell Slorach, Choo Tze Huang and Jesse Yap were one under, but all three did not manage to finish their rounds.

The remaining half of the 156-player field will return today to complete their opening rounds. The second round is due to start no later than 9am.

SINGAPORE OPEN
Day 2: StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, 9am & 3pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Day off pays off for Kurt'. Print Edition | Subscribe