It was a hot day here to kick off PGA TOUR Series-China’s first event outside Greater China, but that didn’t stop Australia’s Aaron Wilkin and American Jared Howard from shooting 5-under 65s to share the opening-round lead at the third and final Global Qualifying Tournament. The duo leads a packed leaderboard at the 72-hole, no-cut qualifier at Laguna Golf Phuket heading into Wednesday.
Wilkin, who has been playing primarily on the PGA TOUR of Australasia since turning pro in 2015, was solid from the start, picking up six birdies through 15 holes before a bogey on his final hole spoiled his run at a bogey-free round.
Despite the bogey, it was an impressive round—especially seeing that it was the first round Wilkin had played since injuring his wrist three weeks ago. The 26-year-old is hoping he can keep the momentum going but is expecting windier conditions in the afternoon for the second round.
“I’m pretty happy. I made a bogey on the last hole, which messed up my bogey-free round. I came here with no practice, and I haven’t played in three weeks so I don’t mind taking one bogey,” said Wilkin, whose second round begins at 11:55 a.m. “[Wednesday] I would love another 5-under. I think tomorrow might be a little tougher because I have a later start. It’s always a little bit easier getting up early and getting out there, and I think the breeze will be up tomorrow afternoon so it might be trickier.”
Howard, who teed off on hole 11, had a completely different scorecard for his 65. After carding eight consecutive pars, Howard drained a sensational shot from the hazard on hole 1 to make eagle. He then made three consecutive birdies, on holes 3, 4, and 5. He bogeyed No. 7 before closing with birdie-par to complete a memorable round.
“[The eagle] was one of the best shots I’ve hit in a while, so that jump-started the whole round for me,” said Howard. “The ball was in a weird spot on the grass, and I don’t know how it stayed up. So, I get down there, and I see I have 118 yards to the pin. The ball was below my feet and as the ball came off the face; I thought this could be good. Then all of a sudden we just hear boom; it hit the flagstick, so I knew it flew right in. Just dunked it.”
American Eric Beringer and Japan’s Raiki Okamoto each shot 66 to share third, one shot ahead of England’s Joe Heraty, Canada’s Stuart Macdonald, Japan’s Narutoshi Yamaoka, South Korean amateur Dongmin Kim, and American duo Archer Price and Blake Snyder.
Chasing the top-10 are six players in a tie for 11th at 2-under.
Only the medalist this week will earn full status for the 14-event Tour season, while finishers 2-12 will earn status through the first six events. Finishers 13-35 (and ties) will be conditionally exempt through the first six events.
Did you know that Aaron Wilkin tied for second with Anthony Quayle at the PGA Tour of Australasia’s South Pacific Export Radler PNG Open in April 2016. Compatriot Brad Moules won the event
There is no cut this week.
The high temperature of the day was 91.
There was very little breeze in the morning but picked up slightly in the afternoon waves.
There were 120 players in the field today from 18 nationalities.
The course is a par-70 totalling 6,580 yards.
Aaron Wilkin was born in Wellington but now resides in Brisbane.
South Korea’s Dongmin Kim is currently on track to earn a full Tour card. In the first two Global Qualifying Tournaments, no amateur earned guaranteed starts.
There are currently four Americans in the top 10.
Australian amateur James Grierson is the second-highest-ranked amateur, currently in T11 after an opening round 68.
Jared Howard graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2015 with a degree in business marketing. He turned pro in September 2015.
A year ago, Eric Beringer, a University of Colorado product, was the second-round leader at the Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament outside Phoenix after opening 69-69. He eventually tied for 16th but didn’t play in any 2018 Mackenzie Tour tournaments. Tuesday, Beringer opened with a 4-under 66 and is tied for third.
Oscar Zetterwall opened with a 2-under 68 and is tied for 11th through 18 holes. The native of Sweden played the 2018 season primarily on the Asian Development Tour, where he recorded four top-10s, including a tie for fifth at the Singha Phuket Open. That tournament was also held at this course. That week, Zetterwall opened 64-67, with a third-round 74 holding him back from contending. He finished with a 67 to tie for fifth.
“The game doesn’t feel too bad. I’ve been carrying a wrist injury, so I’ve just been trying to get through the preparations and get here so I didn’t really have too much expectations. I was doing great until the last hole, and then messed it up a little bit but it’s still all good.” – Aaron Wilkin
“I think I lost a couple of kilos today, but it’s good. I’m sort of use to the heat, being from Queensland. It gets pretty hot there in the summer. So, it is pretty exhausting but it’s nothing I can’t handle.” – Aaron Wilkin
“You have to hit it well, and I hit it well today. You definitely can score if you hit it in the fairways. As soon as I got out of position on the last hole, I made bogey, so that just shows me that if I keep hitting it in the fairways, I can keep scoring.” – Aaron Wilkin
“I had a good birdie on 9 because I hit a good drive, then a good second [shot] but hit a poor chip. I was able to regroup and holed a nice putt from about 15 feet, so that was nice. It was nice to make the turn at 4-under. I had a (birdie) opportunity on 10 but missed a short one, then I regrouped and birdied 12 so that was nice and made a great par save on 16.” – Aaron Wilkin
“I started on 11 and was kind of ho-hum. I made eight pars in a row to start the round and then holed out for eagle on 1, birdied 3, 4 and 5, which got it going. I made a bogey on 7—hit in the water—but that’s a tough driving hole. I’m pleased with the day.” – Jared Howard
“I just told myself to stay patient, it’s a four-round marathon so I was trying not to score too high or too low. Just keep hitting fairways and greens and see what happens.” – Jared Howard
“It was very hot today, I just told myself to keep drinking water. You can’t drink enough out here, but I was in Thailand last month and it’s still tough to get used to.” – Jared Howard
“Like I always say, you can’t win it on the first day but you can shoot yourself out of it. So, I’m pleased with the start and we’ll keep on hammering for the next three rounds.” – Jared Howard
“I played very good. I also made an eagle which was nice but I missed a short birdie putt on hole 10. Overall I played really well and I’m happy.” – Raiki Okamoto
“I hit a great shot on hole 14 [for eagle]. It left me a short putt and I made it.” – Raiki Okamoto
“I hope I can do well this week and then be able to play in China. I think it would be good for me and for my game.” – Raiki Okamoto