Wi celebrates Asia return in Johor

Charlie Wi celebrated his return to Asia by shooting a five-under-par 66 in the first round of the weather-interrupted Iskandar Johor Open on Thursday.

Golf News: Charlie Wi

Wi, a regular on the PGA Tour, made two appearances on the Asian Tour in the last three years and was delighted to return to his favourite hunting ground where he has won seven titles.

The first round was called off for the day at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club an hour after lightning stopped play at 4.22pm but Wi, who played in the morning enjoyed playing in the ideal scoring conditions.

"It feels good! It is nice to be back and I hope to come back a little bit more next year," said Wi, who trails clubhouse leader Joost Luiten of the Netherlands by three shots in the US$2 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Wi, who plied his trade on the Asian Tour earlier in his career before moving on to the PGA Tour, credited his experience of playing in Asia for his strong start.

"I know how to putt on these greens. If I was here for the first time, I would be struggling but because I've played in Asia for a fairly long time, I know the courses very well," he added.

He birdied his opening hole but slipped back with two straight bogeys before fighting back with four consecutive birdies. The highlight of his round came on the second hole when he holed out from the green side bunker on the second hole from 15 yards for birdie.

"When I had those two bogeys I was like, ‘Oh boy, I hope I don't let this round get away.' But I was able to make some birdies and I was pretty pleased," said the 39-year-old.

"I was very lucky with that (chip in on two)! It was a very tough hole. I knew I needed to hit a good three wood into the green but I hit it in the bunker and luckily I was able to hole it," he said.

Lu Wei-chih of Chinese Taipei, who won two titles on the Asian Tour this year, enjoyed the experience of playing with Wi and title holder Padraig Harrington of Ireland. He shot a 67 to lie four shots off the clubhouse lead.

"They are such good players and friendly. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. I tried to mimic their play - find fairways and hit the greens - obviously it only worked on some holes. I'm not surprised with their scores. They are world class players and it is really an experience playing with them," he smiled.

A total of 78 players will return at 7.20am to resume their opening round.

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