KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia — Abraham Ancer of Mexico and Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz led the Saudi International to give a distinct Latin American flavour to the Asian Tour opener.
The $5 million tournament has several players who have signed with Saudi-backed LIV Golf, and whose season is still three weeks away from starting.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Munoz will be signing with LIV.
Cameron Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, received a conflicting event release from the PGA Tour to play. He was at 65, along with Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen.
World number 37 Ancer shot a bogey-free seven-under par 63, while world number 90 Munoz, who is expected to be the next star to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, signed for a six-under par 64.
Major champions Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen were tied for third alongside American Cameron Young, one of the PGA Tour members who were released by the Tour to play this week.
Garcia, who is making a comeback after knee surgery, dropped just one shot in his five-under par 65.
Benign morning conditions at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club gave way to a blustery afternoon, which wreaked havoc on most players in the second session.
The best player from the afternoon groups was Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana, who made one bogey on the difficult par-4 13th hole, but added five birdies for a four-under par 66.
Kaewkanjana was tied alongside South Africa’s Ian Snyman and Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent.
American Patrick Reed, who finished second to Rory McIlroy in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, found birdies on the back nine playing in the afternoon to share ninth place at three-under par 67.
Ancer started on the tougher back nine and birdied two of the toughest holes – the 11th and 13th – as well as the 14th and 15th. He then added three more birdies on his back nine.
“On this golf course, you have got to make it count if you are teeing off early. I took advantage at the beginning where there was very little wind,” said Ancer.
“Around the turn, it started pumping pretty good. Once it gets that way, you try to hold on, and being able to make a couple birdies coming in was definitely nice.
“It’s a golf course you can get in a lot of trouble if you’re not in the fairway. I feel like you don’t necessarily have to hit it that far, but definitely being in the fairway is a premium.”
Munoz, winner of the Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour in 2019, made the most of the morning conditions.
“I felt like this morning it wasn’t blowing a lot, so it was there for the taking. I got myself a couple of early birdie opportunities, and then on the front nine (his back nine) I played really good,” said the 30-year-old from Bogota.
Reigning British Open champion and world number four Cameron Smith was among those caught by the afternoon wind and wound up with a three-over 73 round that contained just two birdies.
The tournament lost one of its biggest stars when former world number one and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson pulled out with a back problem.
The American was replaced in the field by Australian Scott Hend.
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