Justin Quiban missed only one green in his opening 4-under-par 66 to launch his bid for a breakthrough victory in the International Series Egypt at the Maditany Golf Club in Egypt Thursday.
The 26-year-old Filipino was in a big group on 14th spot, four shots behind pacesetting Scott Hend of Australia.
Quiban reached the turn on 3-under after three straight birdies from 5. He picked up another stroke on 10, and made his only bogey on 16 before closing with a birdie on 18.
Angelo Que shot a 69 behind three birdies against two bogeys while Miguel Tabuena mixed three birdies with three bogeys for a 72.
Hend’s revival continued after he shot a sublime eight-under-par 62 to take the first-round lead in the US$1.5 million event.
The Australian, who has battled back from prostate cancer, looked like his old self today making nine birdies and one bogey at Madinaty Golf Club — in what is the Asian Tour’s first-ever visit to Egypt.
Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit and Seungtaek Lee from Korea shot equally impressive 63s, while South African Jaco Ahlers and Canadian Richard T. Lee returned 64s.
Hend has fully recovered from cancer but says the biggest obstacle he faces now is a lack of confidence.
He said: “I am a 10-time winner on the Asian Tour, I am a 15-time winner around the world, I am an Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, I am second on the Asian Tour Career Money List, I have been playing golf since I was 14 years old, I know how to play, I have just got to keep telling myself that.”
The 49-year-old missed cut after cut in the early part of the year but has been playing better since then, most noticeably in last week’s International Series Morocco where he was tied for third going into the final round before shooting a 78 to finish equal 14th.
“It’s just a process, putting the foot in front of the other and trying to get back to where I was,” said Hend, whose last win on the Asian Tour came in the 2019 Maybank Championship.
“Mentally I have suffered a lot from what I have been through, so that’s where I have been really struggling confidence wise. I wasn’t 100 percent, I tried to play, and I rode on what confidence I did have but I wasn’t 100 percent so it was a Catch-22.”
He could easily have finished with a lower score today but missed three putts from inside four feet on the outward half and one from a similar length on the way back.
Pawin was bogey-free, making three birdies on the front and four on the back.
“I played well from the tee today which is important on this course, and of course, I holed a lot of putts,” Pawin said.
“I have been playing well this year, missing the cut for the first time last week in Morocco, so today is just my form continuing.”
The Thai golfer has been playing on the Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour for the past decade and still chasing his first victory.
Ahlers, who started on 10, built his round on a fine four-under-par 30 back nine with five birdies and one bogey. He made another three birdies and one dropped shot on the second half.
He said: “I started off by holing a few 100 feet of putts, really got the ball rolling well. It’s a great course, I love Nicklaus courses, this isn’t one but it’s very similar.”
The South African is a 10-time winner on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, remarkably five of those coming into playoffs including his most recent victory there coming in April at the Stella Artois Players Championship.
American Sihwan Kim, currently second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, eagled two par fives on the front nine and was one of nine players who came in with 65s.