SIDDIKUR Rahman fired his best score at the challenging Wack Wack East course to share the opening round lead with Chan Kim on six-under-par 66 at the ICTSI Philippine Open presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and PLDT on Thursday.
Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour, birdied the last hole from five feet to cap his best effort on the Wack Wack course where his previous low round was a 71 at the 2011 Philippine Open.
Little-known Rolando Marabe, a former caddie who turned pro in 1997, led the local charge after shooting a 69 to tie with four-time Asian Tour winner Chawalit Plaphol in third place.
Thai Prayad Marksaeng, Korea’s Park Byung Joo, Michael Tran of Vietnam, Settee Prakongvech of Thailand and Australia’s Marcus Both were a further four shots off the leaders in joint fifth.
Top local hope Angelo Que had an up-and-down round on the way to a 71 - the same score posted by reigning national men's and junior match play champion Rupert Zaragosa and Jay and Rufino Bayron.
Former Open champion Frankie Minoza opened with an even-par 72.
Siddikur was delighted to rediscover his deft putting touch as he negotiated the tricky Wack Wack greens in 26 putts as he returned to form after missing the cut in his last two Asian Tour events.
“I was confident that my putting touch will come back. In golf sometimes you enjoy a good run of form and sometimes you don’t. I sank about 80 percent of my putts which reflected in my score,” said the 29-year-old.
“This is not an easy course. It is a tight and narrow course with small greens. Every shot counts here. I was not disappointed with my form before today because my stats were still good except putting,” added Siddikur, a two-time Asian Tour winner.
Kim, winner of the 2013 Asian Tour Qualifying School, took advantage of a small change in his swing tempo to share the lead with Siddikur after trading seven birdies against one bogey.
He has some unfinished business at the Wack Wack course after missing the halfway cut at the 2013 Solaire Open by one shot at the same venue after making a 7 on the famous par-3 eighth hole.
“Last year I shot one-over for the first round and thought, 'Well that’s not a bad score.' Then in the second round I shot a seven on the famous eighth hole! I couldn’t get any momentum after that and missed the cut by one. I’m happy I made par there today,” laughed Kim.
Filipino’s Marabe, who is searching for his first professional victory this week, surprised even himself when he broke par for the first time on the Wack Wack course
“I’m happy with my score. My putting was good and my irons were sharp. I’ve played here many times and this is my best score. It is actually the first time I shot under-par. I always shoot a 74 or 75 here,” said the 37-year-old Marabe.
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri of India struggled to get his round going following a disappointing 75.
“It was a frustrating round. I don’t think I played horribly. I just made some poor decisions and struggled on the greens. I don’t think I’m out of the tournament yet. It is a tough course and if you can play consistently then you can get decent score,” said Lahiri, a five-time Asian Tour winner.
"I honestly don’t think I’m out of the tournament."
66 - Chan KIM (USA), Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN).
69 - Rolando MARABE (PHI), Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA).
70 - PARK Byung Joo (KOR), Prayad MARKSAENG (THA), Michael TRAN (VNM), Settee PRAKONGVECH (THA), Marcus BOTH (AUS).
71 - Rufino BAYRON (PHI), Nathan HOLMAN (AUS), LIN Wen-tang (TPE), Jay BAYRON (PHI), Rupert SARAGOZA (am, PHI), Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN), Angelo QUE (PHI), S.S.P CHOWRASIA (IND), Mithun PERERA (SRI), Paul PETERSON (USA).
72 - Ryan YIP (CAN), WANG Jeung-hun (KOR), George GANDRANATA (INA), Lionel WEBER (FRA), Frankie MINOZA (PHI), Poom SAKSANSIN (THA), Unho PARK (AUS), Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA), Adam GROOM (AUS).
73 - Elmer SABAN (PHI), CHAN Yih-shin (TPE), Sam CYR (USA), Manav JAINI (IND), Steve LEWTON (ENG), Paul ECHAVEZ (PHI), Jarin TODD (USA), Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA), Mars PUCAY (PHI), Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA), Boonchu RUANGKIT (THA), Miguel OCHOA (PHI).