Mizuno, Atiruj set early pace at PGM Maybank ADT Championship

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 27: Defending champion Shinichi Mizuno of Japan picked up where he left off last year, signing for an opening six-under-par 66 to grab a share of the clubhouse lead with Thai youngster Atiruj Winaicharoenchai at the weather-disrupted PGM Maybank ADT Championship on Wednesday.

The leading duo secured a one-shot advantage over Pakistan’s Hamza Amin, Choo Tze Huang of Singapore and Kwanchai Tannin of Thailand at the US$54,000 event, which is the penultimate leg of the 2019 Asian Development Tour (ADT) schedule this seaon.

Play at the Saujana Golf and Country Club was suspended at 5.15pm local time due to lightning threats before being abandoned for the day an hour later . A total of 38 players will resume their rounds at 7.30am local time on Thursday morning with the second round scheduled to commence at 7.30am as originally planned.

Amir Nazrin was the best local performer of the day following a 68, while Malaysia’s number one and Maybank ambassador Gavin Green is five shots off the pace after carding a 71.

Mizuno came out from the 10th tee with all guns blazing as he fired an eagle on the par-four 11th before gaining three more shots through birdies on the 13th, 17th and 18th to turn in 31.

He traded two more birdies against a lone bogey on his return journey.

“I was kind of nervous returning as the defending champion, but the early eagle on the 11th, my second hole, really got my round going.

“I hit the driver and for the second shot, it was about 145 yards and I hit a nine-iron. It just landed before the pin and went in on the second bounce.

“For the bogey (on the seventh), it was a tough situation. I hit the tee shot which was quite decent but it found a bunker. I kind of accepted that bogey and managed to bounce back with a birdie on the next hole, so it didn’t really affect me,” said Mizuno.

Mizuno is hoping to take advantage of the good start as he seeks to successfully defend a title for the first time in his career.

“It would be nice if I can do it (retaining a title). Even looking back to my junior days, I’ve won tournaments but I have never defended it.

“Obviously, there’s still many rounds left to be played but shooting a 66 is a nice way to start off the week. I intend to continue playing aggressive and keep the birdies coming,” added Mizuno.

Atiruj, 19, was the other player to steal the limelight on the opening day by notching seven birdies, including five in his last six holes.

His only blemish was a double bogey on par-four 14th.

“I have got a lot of confidence playing at Saujana, having captured the Saujana Amateur Championship back in 2016.

“My iron shot and putting made the difference today. Five of my birdies were inside 10 feet, one through chip-in and another from two putts on the par-five.

“I’m very pleased with my round. I’m looking to do well this week I’m preparing for the Asian Tour Q-School next year,” said Atiruj, who turned professional last year.

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