Sentosa, Singapore, January 16: Thailand’s Kosuke Hamamoto showed he can be the man for the big occasion when he signed for an opening six-under-par 65 to take the first round lead at the SMBC Singapore Open on Thursday.
Despite playing at the US$1 million Singapore showpiece for the first time, the 20-year-old displayed maturity beyond his years as he outplayed several of the tournament’s marquee names that include former world number one Justin Rose of England, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, American Matt Kuchar and 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand.
Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul showed his consistency yet again by signing for a 66 to trail Hamamoto by one shot in a share of second place that included Canada’s Richard T. Lee, Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino and American Matt Kuchar, who managed to complete his round in near darkness.
17-year-old Joohyung Kim of Korea, who is the youngest player in the field and making his SMBC Singapore Open debut, continued to show his potential as he posted a 67 to end his day in tied-sixth place alongside Korea’s Inhoi Hur and Jazz.
Jazz started his title defence with a promising 67 while Rose and Stenson are a further shot back from the defending champion in tied-ninth place after returning with matching 68s.
Did you know?
- Kosuke Hamamoto, whose father is Japanese and mother is Thai, is making his first appearance at the SMBC Singapore Open this week.
- The 20-year-old Thai, who turned professional last year, started playing golf at the age of eight. He is a former Thai Amateur star, South East Asia (SEA) Games individual gold medalist and was part of the first Thai team to win the Nomura Cup in Malaysia in 2017.
- He was also part of Team Thailand that finished second in the Team event at the SEA Games in 2017.
- Kosuke enjoyed a solid rookie season on the Asian Tour in 2019. He came in runner-up in Chinese Taipei last September to virtually seal his card for the 2020 season. He eventually finished in 31st place on the Order of Merit, thanks to two top-10s.
- Richard T. Lee is a two-time Asian Tour winner. He won his maiden title at the Solaire Open in 2014 and claimed his second victory at the Shinhan Donghae Open in 2017.
- The 28-year-old Lee capped three top-10 finishes in 2019 to finish 33rd on the Order of Merit and retain his playing rights for the 2020 season.
- His last professional win came in April 2019 when he won The 15th DB Insurance Promy Open on the Korean PGA Tour.
- Lee enjoyed his career-best finish on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2015 where he finished in seventh place.
- Lee finished as runner-up at his qualifier to earn entry to the 2007 U.S. Open, becoming the second youngest golfer in the 107-year history of the tournament. However, he did not finish the tournament as he injured his wrist in the second round. He finished at 20-over and turned professional when the tournament concluded.
- Since the start of the 2019 season, Gunn Charoenkul has posted 20 top-10 finishes across all Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) events on various Tours worldwide.
- His best finishes on the Asian Tour have been two runners-up. In addition to finishing second in Jakarta last December he also did so at the 2016 Queen’s Cup.
- Joohyung Kim is the youngest player in the field this week. At 17, he announced his arrival on the world stage with his maiden Asian Tour win at the Panasonic Open India last year.
- Kim earned a battlefield promotion from the Asian Development Tour (ADT) to the Asian Tour by winning three ADT events in the same season: the PGM ADT Championship @ Tiara Melaka, the Ciputra Golfpreneur Tournament presented by Panasonic and the Raya Pakistan Open in 2019.