Anirban Lahiri of India continued his recent good form with an opening-round of 4-under-par 68 Thursday to share the overnight lead with Jonathan Moore of the United States at the Asian edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for the 2012 British Open.
Lahiri, who won his second Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open on home soil last week, was cruising on 6 under before a bogey at 16 followed by a double bogey on the signature 17th hole at the Amata Spring Country Club, where players must take a boat ride to the green after their tee shot. He claimed a stroke back before the finish with a birdie at the 18th.
The 2012 British Open will be played July 19-22 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
Moore, winner of the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit last year, enjoyed a good day with the putter, which included an eagle-3 at the 15th.
Kwanchai Tannin of Thailand, Kodai Ichihara of Japan, Australian Scott Barr and two-time Asian Amateur Champion Hideki Matsuyama were a further shot back, with the top four players at the end of the two-day, 36-hole qualifier earning spots at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in July.
“I’m really happy with the way I played. I drove the ball really well,” said Lahiri. “I’m happy with the way I’m swinging it. All and all it was a good round. I would have loved to finish better.”
Lahiri was delighted to be in the running to earn a major debut despite hitting his wedge shot into the water on 17.
“I love watching all the Opens. I remember watching Tiger (Woods) go out with his 2-iron and smashing it around St. Andrews,” the 24-year-old said. “He would kill the field and that was fantastic. Hopefully if I can play well tomorrow, I can be a part of that.”
Moore, who started at the 10th, sank a huge eagle putt on the 15th hole from the edge of the green from 50 feet before carding three straight birdies from the first hole.
“My form hasn’t been great. My set-up has been quite off. I’m slowly working on it and I felt like it got better out there. The reward is very cool. I feel like I’m in it. It is actually good experience and it will kind of feel like playing in the weekend rounds tomorrow,” said Moore, who played in the U.S. Open in 2006 and was part of the victorious 2007 U.S. Walker Cup team.
Kwanchai, who is aiming to qualify for his first major appearance, put his local knowledge to good use as he returned with five birdies against two bogeys.
“I like this golf course. I played well here at the Thailand Golf Championship except on the last day. It was an okay round for me. It would be a dream come true to be able to qualify for the Open. That’s every professional golfer’s dream,” said Kwanchai, who finished in 58th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year.
Barr of Australia was on 5 under after 16 holes and but failed to maintain his momentum as he returned with two closing bogeys. He will be aiming to make his second Open appearance this summer after making his major debut at Royal Troon in 2004.
“I played previously in 2004 and the atmosphere and crowd were good. It was a good experience. Hopefully I can get back out there. My form is okay, I’m hitting and putting okay. I’m doing pretty well and hopefully I can hang in there,” said Barr, who finished third at the SAIL-SBI Open in India last week.
The British Open will be held from July 19-22 at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's in northern England.
International Final Qualifying (IFQ) events were introduced in 2004 and are held on five continents to give more players from around the world the chance to gain direct entry into golf's oldest championship. Qualifiers already have been held in South Africa and Australia, and after this event in Thailand, future qualifiers will be held May 21 at Gleneagles Golf & Country Club in Dallas, Texas; and June 25 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England.