SINGAPORE - All eyes were on defending champion Jazz Janewattananond on the first day of the SMBC Singapore Open on Thursday (Jan 16), but it was the Thai's lesser-known compatriot who grabbed pole position instead.
Kosuke Hamamoto topped the leaderboard after the opening round of the the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) event, after he shot an impressive six-under 65, at the Sentosa Golf Club.
The 20-year-old, born in Chiang Mai to a Japanese father and Thai mother, shot six birdies at the 7,398-yard Serapong course.
Hamamoto, who is in his sophomore year as a professional and is making his Singapore Open pro debut, was the men's individual champion at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. He said the key to his excellent day's work was playing without pressure.
"To be honest I'm just happy to be able to play here in this prestigious event," he said.
"I just came in this week with the attitude of... (being) grateful and thankful for everything that's been happening.
"Today I just had a lot of fun and did not really put a lot of pressure on myself."
Another Thai player, Gunn Charoenkul, shared second place with American Matt Kuchar, Richard T. Lee of Canada and Rikuya Hoshino of Japan on five-under 66.
It was a mixed start for Kuchar, who won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was the only player in the top 14 to score an eagle - on the par-five seventh hole - but also the only one to double-bogey, as he did on the par-four 13th.
But the world No.24 was all smiles later and said: "It was a good day out there, I was awfully pleased with my performance.
"I got off to a good start and was able to keep it going. I had a double-bogey on the 13th but bounced back with a couple of birdies so, all in all, it was a good day."
A trio of players - Jazz, and South Koreans Kim Joo-hyung and Hur In-hoi - shot matching 67s to share third place.
Said Jazz: "The score is not bad although I left a bit out there.
"It's still the first round, so there's no need to go too serious about this now. It's still a good score so I'm pretty happy with it."
Six players are tied for ninth place, having shot 68. They include world No. 9 Justin Rose and veteran Swede Henrik Stenson, ranked 26th in the world.
Englishman Rose, the gold medallist at the Rio Olympics, said: "My game was not exactly great (and) I did not hit many good shots today but I think I managed my game very well.
"I was never in a lot of trouble so even though I was not playing well I always managed to be in decent positions - managing the bad shots, I guess... I think three-under is a good start."
An afternoon weather delay of around 1 hour 15 minutes meant that 46 of the 156-man field were not able to complete their round, with play suspended at 7.10pm. They will resume at 7.40am today, before the second round at 8am.