When Tiger Woods was at the height of his powers it was often said that the rest of the field were simply playing for second place behind him, that’s how it must feel on the European Senior Tour at present, as Boonchu Ruangkit continued his amazing run of form with a four under par round of 69 to lead the Berenberg Bank Masters after day one.
A win in Brunei was followed immediately by a victory in his native Thailand and “The Godfather of Asian Golf” is on course to make it a fantastic hat-trick in South Africa this week after his bogey-free round lifted him to the top of the leaderboard.
It means that the former kickboxer has lead after every round of every tournament on the Senior Tour so far in 2010, a record breaking seven consecutive rounds.
Of the three Irishmen in the field, Jimmy Heggarty fared best on a day when only 15 players managed to beat par.
The Ulsterman was two over par as he reached the turn but an inward nine of 36 meant that he posted a steady opening round of one over par 74.
Drogheda’s Des Smyth birdied his final hole to partially repair the damage caused by five earlier bogeys and signed for a 77, while Denis O’Sullivan is one further back after only carding a solitary birdie in a five-over par 78.
Sam Torrance continued his impressive early season form with a round of 72 that leaves him in a big group three shots adrift. Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam, a multiple winner in South Africa over the years, is further back alongside Heggarty at one over par.
Crowd favourite Gary Player finds himself level with Smyth at four-over par after a round that included five bogeys and a double. That means Smyth will have the pleasure of the nine-time mayor winners’ company tomorrow, with Tony Johnstone making up an impressive looking trio.
Speaking after writing his name further into the European Senior Tour record books, Ruangkit said: “I’m very happy today because I was on the fairway on nearly every hole and you can play well from there.
“You have to be patient playing this course. When I came to practice here I knew I’d have to hit the ball well to keep my form going. It’s important to be accurate here.
“The greens here are very similar to in the US but they are very different to what we played on in Thailand and Brunei which were flat. I will need to be patient tomorrow but I will try my best.”
The Smyth, Player, Johnstone group gets underway at 7am Irish time on Saturday, just less than an hour after Denis O’Sullivan gets his second round under way while Jimmy Heggarty tees off at 8.20am alongside Woosnam.