Domaine de Bel Ombre (Mauritius): India's Rahil Gangjee finished with 4 under par 67 in the third position while Korean teenager Jeunghun Wang shared the first round lead with Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen and Spaniard Carlos Pigem after jointly establishing a new course record of six-under-par 65 at the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on Thursday.
The talented Olesen, who has been out for three months following a hand surgery, mixed eight birdies with two bogeys at the magnificent Heritage Golf Club in the morning before his effort was matched later in the day by Wang, who was bogey-free, and Pigem. The trio lead by a shot from South Africa's Oliver Bekker and Terry Pilkadaris of Australia in the euro 1 mn (approx. $1.1 million) tournament, which is the first-ever event to be tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and Sunshine Tours.
Gangjee, who is half Mauritian, and Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat were amongst those bunched on 67. The 19-year-old Wang, only one of two players who produced bogey-free cards, overcame windy and rainy conditions to surge up the leaderboard as he chases a maiden Tour victory. "I'm so happy with my score. The wind was so strong and the rain was very hard. I'm happy that I played like this and my putter was pretty nice today," said Wang, whose made-cut streak began since the end of 2013.
Olesen, a two-time European Tour winner, got out of the blocks quickly with four birdies in his first five holes - the first from 40 feet - and picked up further gains at the 16th and 18th holes - either side of a dropped shot on the 17th hole - for an outward 31. Another bogey followed on the first, but Olesen birdied the fifth and completed his scoring with a 10-footer on the seventh hole. Pigem, an Asian Tour regular, was delighted with his opening round's effort.
"This is a lovely place. When I arrived I said athis is paradise, I have to play well' so I'm glad I did," said the 24-year-old. "It's my target to be on the European Tour in the future and I know if I work hard I will be, but right now I'm enjoying it in Asia and learning a lot." Pint-size Gangjee birdied three of his last five holes to give himself a shot of winning in his mother's homeland and a first title in 11 years following his lone Asian Tour triumph in 2004.
"We were battling out there. It wasn't easy, it was very, very windy and it started raining and it stopped raining and then it started raining again. It was more tiring than a normal day. I was feeling it towards the end but somehow it came together where I made a few putts," he said.
Leading first round scores
65 - Thorbjorn OLESEN (DEN) , Jeunghun WANG (KOR) , Carlos PIGEM (ESP)
66 - Oliver BEKKER (RSA) , Terry PILKADARIS (AUS)
67 - Madalitso MUTHIYA (ZAM) , Daniel WOLTMAN (USA) , Dean BURMESTER (RSA) , John PARRY (ENG) , Rahil GANGJEE (IND) , Justin WALTERS (RSA) , Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) , Nathan HOLMAN (AUS)
68 - Carlos DEL MORAL (ESP) , Borja VIRTO ASTUDILLO (ESP) , Matthew FITZPATRICK (ENG) , Andrew MCARTHUR (SCO) , Pelle EDBERG (SWE) , Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) , Mikael LUNDBERG (SWE) , Kevin PHELAN (IRL) , Rikard KARLBERG (SWE)
69 - Ryan CAIRNS (ZIM) , Sam BRAZEL (AUS) , Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) , Paul PETERSON (USA) , Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) , Mardan MAMAT (SIN) , Colin NEL (RSA) , Scott BARR (AUS) , Thomas AIKEN (RSA)