Golf: Hung hangs loose to take SMBC Singapore Open first-round lead

Taiwanese Hung Chien-yao teeing off on hole eight during the first round of the SMBC Singapore Open at the Serapong Course in Sentosa on Jan 17, 2019.
Taiwanese Hung Chien-yao teeing off on hole eight during the first round of the SMBC Singapore Open at the Serapong Course in Sentosa on Jan 17, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hung Chien-yao missed the cut in 2016 and 2017 before he secured his best SMBC Singapore Open result when he tied for 60th last year.

So a five-under 66 that gave him the clubhouse lead in a weather-disrupted opening round at Sentosa Golf Club yesterday caught even the Taiwanese himself by surprise.

"Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to say. My luck today was extremely good," said the 28-year-old, who had an eagle and four birdies to go with a bogey at the 7,398-yard Serapong course.

"The bad shots I hit, I managed to recover from and even create birdie chances."

The world No. 591 finished a humble 53rd on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit last year with winnings of US$80,406 (S$109,000), missing his last three cuts of 2018.

But getting married and becoming a father last year have given him a new perspective.

"I wasn't in a good state mentally to finish 2018. But I just told myself I had nothing to lose and that the worst that can happen is I go home early to see my baby. That helped me to be very relaxed," he said.

A group of six players are one stroke behind him at the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) tournament, although three of them - Richard Jung, Taihei Sato and Chan Shih-chang - have yet to complete their first rounds.

An afternoon weather delay of around two hours prevented half the 156-man field from finishing, with play suspended at 7.10pm.

Among the players affected are world No. 24 Paul Casey and 21-time winner on the PGA Tour Davis Love III. They will resume play at 7.30am today, before the second round at 9.40am.

Filipino Miguel Tabuena was one of three on four-under 67 who finished their rounds, alongside the Japanese duo of Yoshinori Fujimoto and Yuta Ikeda.

"I took a longer layoff than usual at the end of last year and didn't touch a club for almost a month, so I'm quite happy with my performance today," said the 24-year-old, who is looking to improve on his eighth-place finish last year.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia shot a two-under 69, declaring himself satisfied after beginning the day feeling slightly unwell.

"I've had a little bit of a sinus infection for a few days and an upset stomach this morning but I think I played quite nicely today," said the Spaniard. "Obviously missed a couple of shots here and there being a bit rusty but I gave myself chances today and made some good putts.

"The greens here are very fast and tricky and you have to be very aware of your speed."

Koh Dengshan led the way on the local front, matching Garcia with a 69.

"I hit the ball good today and you need to do that on this course. I putted well too. It's obviously nice to be in this position. It always feels good whenever you get to play in your National Open," said the 30-year-old, who is one of 12 locals in the field. "It's good to have people cheering you on out there. It keeps you positive and definitely motivates you to play better."