SIEM REAP, Cambodia(AP) Australia’s Adam Groom shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead after Thursday’s first round of the inaugural Cambodian Open.
The $300,000 (203,340) Asian Tour event is being played on one of just three golf courses in the Southeast Asian nation, with Siem Reap the nearest town to the nation’s main tourist attraction – the temple of Angkor Wat.
Groom fired eight birdies against a single bogey to lead by a shot from compatriot and roommate Mitchell Brown and America’s Bryan Saltus.
India’s Arjun Singh was a stroke further back at 5-under along with America’s Anthony Kang.
Defending champion Chapchai Nirat of Thailand was among five players to shoot a 4-under 68 on the Phokeethra course.
The 28-year-old Groom said he was suited by the course and gained confidence after shooting four successive birdies on the outward nine.
“I carried on the momentum from then on and Im happy with my opening round result,” Groom said.
Brown needs a good finish at this event if he is to retain his Asian Tour card for next year. With the top 60 finishes in the Order of Merit to receive cards for next season, Brown is currently 67th.
“This is the perfect start I need for this week,” Brown said. “I hope to have a repeat run tomorrow if not its back to Qualifying School for me,” said Brown.
The Cambodian Open is the penultimate event on the Asian Tour calendar.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen hit the ceremonial first shot to open the event, with the government hoping this event will further develop its embryonic tourism industry.
Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia. There were 1.7 million foreign arrivals last year, and more than half of the tourists visited the Angkor temples.