SINGAPORE - Italy’s Edoardo Molinari and Briton James Morrison made the most of ideal scoring conditions to fire matching nine-under par 62s for a share of the lead after the opening round of the Singapore Open on Thursday.
On a still day at the Sentosa Golf Club, Molinari and Morrison brushed off the sweltering conditions to register 10 birdies apiece on the easier Tanjong Course at the $6 million co-sanctioned event split over two layouts.
The Italian’s lone bogey on the ninth ended a run of four birdies over his opening eight holes but an inward six-under 29 took him a stroke clear of South Korea’s Y.E. Yang, who had completed a bogey-free 63 minutes earlier.
Morrison took to the course later in the afternoon and was set to take sole possession of the lead until a bogey at the par-three 16th stalled his charge following a run of five birdies in six holes.
“It was a very good round. I may have missed a few shots but my putting was excellent today,” Molinari, a member of Europe’s victorious 2010 Ryder Cup team, told reporters.
“I holed pretty much everything inside 10 feet, which is what you have to do on this course. It’s not a long course and you use a lot of wedges, so your short game needs to be good.”
Molinari admitted the heat and humidity had bothered him early on but after he settled into his round, he was able to forget about the conditions.
“As you can see I am soaking wet,” the 30-year-old added. “Sometimes it’s difficult as it’s warm and humid, … difficult to breathe, but after a while you get used to it and it’s the same for everyone, so no point in complaining.”
Morrison, who suffers from the debilitating Crohn’s disease, was delighted to make the most of opening the tournament on the easier course.
“I’ve been playing well and everything has been coming together,” the 26-year-old said.
“I’ve not been playing amazing golf but getting better every week. I was sticking to my routine and hoping something was coming, so I am very, very pleased.”
Yang’s round was also on the Tanjong Course and the 2009 U.S. PGA champion sits alone in third, one shot clear of late-finishing Daisuke Maruyama of Japan, who birdied the 18th in near darkness to record a seven-under 64.
A group of four players are a stroke further back in a tie for fifth, including South Africa’s Jbe Kruger, who shot a day’s best six-under 65 on the more difficult Serapong Course.
“When I teed off four under was leading so I thought Tanjong is relatively the easier one of the two courses so I probably needed a good start ahead of tomorrow,” Yang said.
“Because it was four under leading, I wanted to hit four or five under. Fortunately for me, I exceeded my expectations so tomorrow, I will be a lot more comfortable.”
The 204-man field will play both layouts before the final two rounds take place on the Serapong Course over the weekend.
One of the tournament’s major drawcards, Phil Mickelson, had a disappointing day playing in the same group as Yang, the American rallying with two late birdies to salvage an even par 71 on Tanjong that will leave him struggling to make the cut.
“I birdied 15 and 16 to get it back to even par on the day. I like the Serapong Course and hopefully I’ll get a good round going tomorrow to get in it for the weekend,” a dishevelled-looking Mickelson said, sweating profusely after signing his card at the scorer’s cabin.
“The scoring average on this course is going to be three or four under par, so anything at par is not going to be considered a very good round.
“You can shoot low on the other course as well but it’s a lot longer, so more difficult,” the popular American added before being swamped by an excited throng of autograph hunters.
World number 14 Graeme McDowell is the highest-ranked European player in the tournament and the Northern Irishman completed a solid three-under par 68 on the Serapong Course to sit in a tie for 32nd.