Bangkok: Home favourite Thanyakon Khrongpha continued his strong form by upstaging the headline Ryder Cup acts to grab a share of the first round lead at the Asian Tour`s $1 million Thailand Golf Championship on Thursday.
Thanyakon, runner-up to Padraig Harrington at the Indonesia Open last week, made four birdies in a three-under-par 69 to sit tied at the top with three other Asian Tour players and one clear of former world number one Lee Westwood.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Germany`s Martin Kaymer were in a share of eighth after firing 71s at the Amata Spring Country Club, on the outskirts of Bangkok.
Twice U.S. Masters champion Bubba Watson endured a difficult day and was in danger of missing the halfway cut after a four-over 76.
That was seven back of Thanyakon, who also finished runner-up at the Chiangmai Golf Classic and tied third in Japan last month.
A repeat performance in Thailand would book the 24-year-old a spot at next year`s British Open, with four places up for grabs at the major this week.
"I`m in a good form and I`ve been playing well for some time now. I`m happy with my result. I have to stick to my game plan because the rough is very long and the wind is very strong," the Thai said.
"Last week was the first time I played with a Major winner so if I can play with another star player this week it will be another good experience."
Australian Marcus Fraser, Richard Lee of Canada and Lu Wei-chih of Taiwan joined Thanyakon at the top after posting 69s.
Former champion Westwood, who fired a 60 en route to winning in 2011, managed an opening and closing birdie in his round of 70 as the stiff breeze, long rough and firm course made scoring tough.
"The golf course is playing a lot tougher. Rough is very thick this year, hit it in there it`s almost a dropped shot immediately," he said.
"There was a bit of breeze as well, tricky flag positions, greens quite firm -- it was a tough test. It`s important to hit the fairways."
Defending champion Garcia praised the work of his caddie, former tennis world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero in the difficult conditions.
"He did good today. He kept confident and calm throughout the whole day. It was nice," the Spaniard said.