Three birdies in his final five holes saw Graeme McDowell rescue a scrappy opening round at the Asian Tour’s BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE.
Coming off the back of a T12 finish – his best of the year – in last week’s Hong Kong Open, the Portrush man is making his first appearance in Indonesia and was out of sorts on the front side, missing the first four fairways and taking 19 putts as he bogeyed the first, second and fifth holes to make the turn at +3.
A birdie at 12 was his first of the day, and though he’d immediately give that shot back at the next, he’d respond with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 before adding another on the par-5 closing hole to claw his way back to level-par and finish the day tied for 68th.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar fired a sizzling bogey-free eight-under-par 63 for the first-round lead at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, ahead of second-placed Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand, American Paul Peterson and Honey Baisoya from India, all in with 65s.
American Patrick Reed, Canada’s Richard T. Lee, Australians Wade Ormsby and Travis Smyth plus Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, the winner here in 2019, and Gunn Charoenkul are next best placed following 66s – in the final International Series event of the season.
Bhullar is the most successful player from his country on the Asian Tour with 10 victories, but he is winless this year and searching for a solution.
“The whole year I have been feeling strong mentally and physically,” said the Indian.
“Thought I have been playing well but not really delivering. This is golf. I am sure my subconscious mind will figure it out.”
The 35-year-old has a phenomenal record in Indonesia having won on four occasions – three Indonesian Opens and the Indonesian President Invitational – while he has come close many other times.
An adjustment to his putting helped to trigger today’s windfall of birdies.
He said: “I figured out something with my stroke on the first few holes and kept on repeating the same action. In the end the result was eight under par.
“It was more to do with the way I was looking at the lines. I just changed the way I was visualising the putt. Nothing changed in my stroke, just the ability to change reading the lines from a different point of view.”
Starting on hole 10 he made three birdies going out and five on the back, including the last two.
Phachara came close to winning the Hong Kong Open last week, finishing in third, and despite nursing a bad back, he is in the frame again this week.
He said: “Yesterday, I hurt my back and thought I might have to withdraw. I could not take the club back so had to withdraw from the Pro-Am after one and a half holes.
“I have had this a couple of times, it’s not a huge problem. The physio helped yesterday.”
His round reached a crescendo when he holed his second on the par-four fifth, with a seven-iron from just over 200 yards.
Asked if he was disappointed about last week’s result, where he made a costly double bogey on 16 and three-putted 18, he said: “Not really disappointed because golf is like that. I’ll take the third place. I am playing great right now, that’s why I’m always go, top, top, top.”
Play was stopped for the day at 5.05pm local time due to inclement weather. Eighteen players, none of whom are in the running, will return to complete their rounds tomorrow morning.