Ex-prodigy Panuphol finds form with dazzling 63
Singapore: Former teen sensation Panuphol Pittayarat buried a frustrating run of form with a nine-under-par 63 Thursday to lead The Championship by one stroke and raise hopes of a breakthrough win.
The 21-year-old has missed the cut in his last three Asian Tour starts, but after a weather delay he carded nine birdies against no bogeys at Singapore`s par-72 Laguna National Golf and Country Club.
Panuphol, nicknamed "Coconut", can crack both his first Asian Tour and European Tour win at the co-sanctioned event, which was moved three weeks ago from South Korea after losing its title sponsor.
While still three rounds away, it would be a victory long in the making after he turned pro at the age of just 14 and has returned five top-10 Asian Tour finishes since.
The Thai lay one shot ahead of Scotland`s Scott Jamieson, American David Lipsky, Kim Byung-Jun of South Korea and Singaporean favourite Quincy Quek.
"I gave myself lots of chances to score and I`m very happy with how I played today," said Panuphol, admitting some of his putts were "really unexpected".
"I didn`t see it coming but it did come and I`m feeling good about my game right now."
In a relatively lightweight field contesting a purse of $1.5 million, defending champion Brett Rumford was seven off the pace and 2012 winner Bernd Wiesberger was a stroke further back on 71.
The unsponsored tournament was relocated last month from South Korea`s Jeju island, where it has been held as the Ballantine`s Championship since 2008.
Eighteen players will have to complete their first rounds on Friday after play, held up by an early rain and lightning storm, was suspended because of bad light.