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Gleeson edges ahead at Open

Gleeson edges ahead at Open

Australia’s David Gleeson goes into the second day with a one-shot lead in the Cambodian Open, while two home-grown amateurs enjoy the experience

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AUSTRALIA’S David Gleeson broke away from a bunched leaderboard to take the first round lead at the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open on Thursday.

Gleeson, a two-time Asian Tour winner, shot a five-under-par 67 which included a birdie at the 18th hole to lead by one shot in US$300,000 event.

Filipino Artemio Murakami, Taipei’s Lin Wen-hong, Malaysian Khor Kheng Hwai and Thai trio Pariya Junhasavasdikul, Annop Tangkamolprasert and Atthaphon Prathummanee share second place on 68s at the Phokeethra Country Club.

India’s Shiv Kapur shot a 70 which included an eagle two and three other birdies.

Gleeson turned in 35 with birdies on the second and fifth holes but dropped a shot on the ninth. He continued his climb up the leaderboard with further birdies on 10, 13 and 15, but it was the 20-foot birdie conversion at the closing hole which highlighted his round.

“The 18th hole is one of the strong holes here, so I am quite surprised I was able to sink that putt. It was one of those that fell in the last minute. I didn’t know it was going in but it is definitely good to move away from the rest,” said Gleeson.

The former Australian amateur champion has managed only one top-10 so far this season and he was delighted to hit form early in the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open, which is celebrating its third edition.

“I have been playing alright of late but my first round has always pulled me down. My goal was to play well on Thursday and see what happens after that. I’ve accomplished half of it so I expect to push forward from here on,” he said.

Murakami, winner of the 2007 Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia, also showed a welcome return to form after missing three consecutive cuts. The Filipino, who is battling to save his Tour card, credited his putting which helped him to a flawless round highlighted by four birdies.

“I have been struggling with my putting the whole year but I was putting well again and that really saved me. Hopefully I can keep it going for the next three days,” said Murakami.

The bubbly Filipino is currently in 77th position on the rankings and needs to break into the top-65 with two more events remaining on the Asian Tour schedule. “I have to continue to shoot low numbers in my next three rounds to give myself a chance of keeping my card, but I do not want to put too much pressure on myself. I will just play according to my own pace,” said Murakami.

Meanwhile, Cambodian amateur golfer Ly Hong, who is making his professional tour debut this year, expressed his intimidation for playing on the biggest stage of his golfing career.

“I feel terrified at first because I am new [to the Tour],” he said after his opening round of 81 (nine over par) Thursday. “But it is a good opportunity to gain experience from professionals. I hope tomorrow I will do better.”

The Cambodian, who has been playing golf for four years, said he believed the continued staging of the Cambodian Open would help develop local talent, and create professional golfers from the Kingdom faster.

One such hope for the future is 17-year-old Seng Vanseiha, the only other Cambodian amateur entered into the Open, who said he was also happy to play amongst the professionals and learn from them.

“I am determined to be a professional no longer than five years from now,” he said Thursday.

The 17-year-old stated that he learned how to play golf from his father, Seng Vanthy, who recently took first place in the government organised Friendly Golf Tournament also at Phokeethra golf course. Vanseiha noted he had been recently training in South Korea for a month, and had also made golfing trips to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the US in 2008.

The rising star finished the first day on six over par, which he deemed acceptable as the worst score of the field was 14 over par. However, Vanseiha will have to improve if he is to make the cut, set at two over par.


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