Yonggu Shin took advantage of benign early morning conditions to shoot a six-under-par 66 to take the first round in the inaugural International Series Oman at Al Mouj Golf today.
The Canadian, who first shot to prominence last year when he finished joint second in the Shinhan Donghae Open, carded six birdies and impressively was bogey free – in the second event of the season on the Asian Tour, and first International Series tournament.
Spanish star Sergio Garcia looked set to join him in first place but made bogey on his last hole to finish with a 67, along with Sadom Kaewkanjana from Thailand.
American Andy Ogletree returned a 68, despite battling illness.
Japan’s Takumi Kanaya, Korean Kyongjun Moon, and Americans Berry Henson and Trevor Simsby shot 69s, while Scott Vincent from Zimbabwe, last year’s International Series Order of Merit winner, was one of 12 players who returned 70.
Shin breezed through the opening nine holes with birdies on four, five, six and eight, before further gains on 10 and 17.
“I really can’t complain, especially with the conditions out here,” said Shin, better known as Justin Shin.
“I got lucky being out first as the conditions were pretty good on the front nine and I managed to come away four under for those nine holes but then the wind picked up in the afternoon and made it tricky, so really happy to come away without any dropped shots.
“I walked off at 18 and that was the first time I realised I was leading so I definitely can’t be unhappy with that. I think as the wind continues to pick up that score will be difficult to get near so yeah very happy with the start, now I just want to relax into the rest of the week.”
Shin, whose family emigrated to Canada when he was three years old, also won on the Korean PGA Tour last year at The 4th Woosung Construction Open.
He added: “It is my first time in Oman, and also my first time in the Middle East so I am really excited. It is pretty cool, I’ve spent most of my time in the US, Korea and Canada so I’m so excited to be here. The course is in really great shape, it is tough out there, but I am really enjoying it and luckily I am playing pretty well.”
Garcia began his round on the 10th and was mid-leaderboard before a stunning run of five birdies in six holes starting on the second.
Said the Spaniard: “Obviously delighted. Mainly because my swing didn’t feel great, especially on the front nine, but then I got it going a bit on the back nine. Yeah, very happy with the score, especially with the wind picking up and how firm the greens are so very happy.”
The 43 year old, who recently returned to playing following a three-month break because of a torn meniscus, is attempting to win for the seventh time on the Asian Tour.
“I hit some really good iron shots out there,” added the 2017 Masters champion.
“Like I said I didn’t feel like I was striking the ball too well, but I was managing to make a few saves on the front nine and then on the back nine I got going a bit and made five birdies in six holes or something like that which was a great feeling.”
Sadom’s presence on the leaderboard is no surprise, especially after a strong performance in last week’s PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Advisers, where he finished fourth, five behind the winner, Abraham Ancer from Mexico.
The in-form golfer, who remarkably has enjoyed eight top-10 finishes in his last 14 Asian Tour starts, switched putters recently and said he can do no wrong on the short grass.
“Over the break I started using an old putter of mine, it’s eight years old, and I’m holing so many putts,” said the 24 year old, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, including last year’s Singapore Open.
“I feel confident, playing on LIV last year with so many great players has helped my game so much.”
He made an eagle, four birdies and a bogey.
Ogletree’s performance was a brave one considering his physical condition.
Said the American: “Yeah, pretty good. Being honest, I didn’t even know if I was going to play this week. I have been pretty ill over the last couple of days and haven’t been able to eat anything, only just now drunk water for the first time so pretty happy with four under to start the week.”
Since his win in last year’s International Series Egypt the 24 year old has been something of a golfer reborn and has big plans moving forward.
“For me, the ultimate goal is to get back on LIV,” he said.
“I have only played one tournament, but I really want to get back there and experience it again. It is a great place to be, I know my game is coming into form at the right time so hopefully I get some more opportunities. These International Series events are great, the course is set up great and it’s a great place to be but yeah, my aim is definitely to take advantage of that pathway and get an opportunity there again.”