Lee Westwood got off to a hot start in his title defense at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters, firing nine birdies to end the first round with a seven-under-par 65 on Thursday.
The Englishman opened up a two-shot lead over Asian Tour rookie Arnond Vongvanij of Thailand, who finished with a 67 at the $750,000 event at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit, former Asian Tour No. 1 Jyoti Randhawa of India, fellow Indian Shiv Kapur, Lee Sung of South Korea, Zaw Moe of Burma and Sam Cyr of the United States were bunched up in a tied for third with matching 68s.
A rejuvenated Westwood birdied the opening three holes before making the turn at 31. He added three birdies, along with a bogey, on his homeward nine.
“I played well. I got off to a fast start, birdied the first three holes, birdied the sixth, dropped the seventh, but then birdied the eight and nine,” the world No. 3 said. “I made nine birdies and that’s a good round in any golf course.”
The 38-year-old said the one- week break after finishing third in the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, really helped him regain his power and focus.
“It was good to go home and recharge my batteries because the Masters always takes a lot out of you. It is physically and mentally very demanding,” Westwood said.
Despite the performance that wowed spectators at the Royale, Westwood said it was too early to talk about whether he could retain the trophy.
“Well, I’d like to do the same as last year and win the tournament. That’s my priority. That will build my confidence. I have so many tournaments coming up so this could be the platform for the rest of the year,” he said. “My focus is for tomorrow morning, trying to shoot a good score, and have the lead going into the weekend.”
Asian Tour rookie Arnond, who has two top-10 finishes this year, continued to impress and credited his straight game for his quality scorecard.
“I’m happy but not surprised,” said the 23-year-old Thai. “I feel that my game in the last couple of weeks have been really close to where I want it. I hit my driver fairly straight and didn’t get into too much trouble.”
Meanwhile, local golfers were way off the pace after the first round. Veteran Sarmilih was the best Indonesian on Thursday, finishing with a one-over 73, which was only good enough for a tie for 45th with 16 others.
Andik Mauluddin, the 2011 Indonesian PGA order of merit leader, was a further shot back.