Hoylake (UK): Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat overcame a mid-round wobble to shoot an opening round of even par 72 at The Open Championship on Thursday. India's Anirban Lahiri, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, struggled to make any headway after missing half the fairways with some wayward tee shots.
After starting his campaign at a sun-kissed Royal Liverpool with early birdies on three and five, Kiradech, the reigning Asian Tour number one stumbled with two double bogeys on seven and nine after hitting some poor chips. But birdies on 13 and 16 ensured he stayed well within reach of the early pacesetters in the year's third Major championship.
"I wasn't striking the ball well, struggling around the greens. Hit two bad chips and made two doubles on the front nine. But overall, I'm happy with the way I'm playing. It's difficult around the greens as you get tight lies. I've also been struggling with my chipping recently. I'll try to work it out after this," said the burly Thai.
Kiradech conceded he should have taken advantage of the benign conditions which greeted the morning starters. "I didn't expect the conditions would be this quiet. We were lucky in the morning but I didn't take advantage of it," said Kiradech, who missed the cut in his Open debut last season.
"There was no wind. I think the players will kill the course. The afternoon guys have yet to tee off and I think the scores will be low. I should have done a bit better. Made two big mistakes and two doubles in one day does not sound too good."
"After playing three rounds here in practice, I think I know the course a bit better now. But I still need to find the game to score," Kiradech said.
Lahiri traded three birdies against four bogeys and one double bogey in what is his second Open start.
"I struggled. Honestly, I was nowhere near where I should be with my game. It would have been nice if I could make a few more putts from inside 10 or 15 feet. It just didn't fall for me today," said the 27-year-old.
"It was ideal conditions and I have no excuses. I played pretty poorly especially on holes where there were lots of opportunities.The last four holes are easier holes and coming in, I think I got a bit frustrated that I didn't make anything happen. It's a great learning experience."
After cutting short his honeymoon in Madagascar to prepare for the Open, Lahiri does not want to disappoint his fans back home and vowed to bounce back in Friday's second round.
"Everyone is really excited. I had a great Open two years ago (where he finished tied 31st at Royal Lytham and St Annes) and everyone back home is cheering me on. Hopefully I can come out tomorrow and give them something to cheer about. I would like to play well for them," said Lahiri, who has posted one victory and three top-10s on the Asian Tour this season.
"I have to play my best golf tomorrow. I know that. I missed a lot of shots to the right and didn't find enough fairways. The frustration got the better of me coming in and I've got to be careful with that.
"I've got to come out tomorrow with more confidence and more positivity. It was quite disappointing as the conditions were good. I just hit a few destructive shots and didn't find enough fairways. Not what I was looking for obviously."
(With inputs from the Asian Tour)