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Fowler and Levet Share Clubhouse Lead in Singapore
Peter Fowler of Australia and Frenchman, Thomas Levet, were the principal beneficiaries of one miscalculation by South Africa’s James Kingston by taking the clubhouse lead in the rain delayed first round of the Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, 2004.                  

However the pair are likely to be passed early in the morning by young New Zealander, Eddie Lee, who holed a bunker shot for an eagle three on the seventh - his 16th - then birdied the eighth to stand at eight under par when the klaxon sounded to suspend play for the night at 7.10pm.

A suspension of play for two and a half hours during the afternoon to allow an electrical storm to pass, ensured that Lee would not complete his round, and that the Australian and the Frenchman would share the clubhouse lead, with the first round due to resume at 8am on Friday morning with the second round commencing soon afterwards.

Meanwhile, the ultra-consistent Kingston, who has not missed a cut in seven starts so far this season, appeared to be cruising towards a useful advantage at Laguna National Golf & Country Club when he ran up a triple bogey six at the eighth hole – his 17th of the day.

Suddenly, from being on top of the leaderboard on seven under par, Kingston dropped into a share of third place after a round of 68, one behind Fowler and Levet, who both played with admirable patience and coolness in the stifling heat and humidity in Singapore.

Kingston played precise golf for the majority of his round and was angry not to have consolidated on some stunning iron play. He said: “I over-clubbed at the eighth with a six iron and it went into the water and I took a triple. I really feel that I should have been eight or under under, so to make one mistake like that is very frustrating.

“I read something into the wind that wasn’t there and hit the ball over the back into the water. I played great and I will probably think about the positives from the round later tonight…but not right now.”

Fowler, now 44 years old, launched his title bid with four straight birdies, stumbled in mid-round, then closed with three more birdies in the last six holes to post his five under par 67, matched soon afterwards by Levet.

“I took the week off last week and needed it” said Fowler, who won the BMW International Open in Munich 11 years ago. “The heat just zapped me in Bangkok and Australia and I took the week off. Frankly it wasn’t enough but I will put everything into this week then take another four weeks off.

“I am trying to have much shorter days at tournaments but that’s hard when you have a considerable amount of work to do. It’s important to conserve your energy.”

Levet, who pushed Ernie Els all the way in the 2002 Open Golf Championship at Muirfield before succumbing in sudden-death, gathered five birdies and dropped only one shot in his 67, hitting the first 14 greens in regulation showing a measure of his consistency.

All told, the 35 year old Parisien missed just two greens and felt at ease with his long game and, for once his putting too. He said: “My game is in good shape and my putting was much more solid than of late. I’ve got no worries about my long game and it’s been a case of being patient and waiting for the putting to come.

“Today I missed from about seven feet at the first and said to myself: ‘Don’t worry, it will come”. Sure enough I holed a couple of nice ones at the fourth and fifth to get into red figures.”

Levet, a two-time winner on The European Tour International Schedule, has his sights raised high for 2004 – a place in the European Ryder Cup Team his principal objective. He added: “That is my big goal. At the moment I am a long way from that and what happens between now and the end of August defends on the big money tournaments. You need to win one and you can take a big step towards The Ryder Cup.”

A total of eight players were poised to challenge just one stroke behind the leaders, six from the Asian Tour and Kingston and Ireland’s Peter Lawrie from The European Tour.

Lawrie, maintaining his fine start to the 2004 campaign, was agitated with his 68, claiming: “It should have been better. I horse-shoed out at the last from five feet but, having said that, I would take four 68s here this week. I hit a lot of good shots and felt very comfortable.”

Colin Montgomerie, bidding to climb into top 50 in the world to claim a berth in The Players Championship in Florida next week, played solidly for 17 holes but bogeyed the last after going into a greenside bunker.

The Scot, currently ranked Number 51 in the world, rued that error and the fact that his play was rewarded with just two birdies. “I hit a poor bunker shot to bogey the last and I’ve done that too many times. I don’t know what it is.”

Defending champion, Lian-Wei Zhang, opened with a level par 72 and was thrilled to learn that he has been invited to become the first Chinese golfer to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National next month.

“After playing professional golf for ten years, I never thought I would get this opportunity” said an understandably delighted Zhang. “I am proud to be the first Chinese player to play in the Masters. I’ve watched it on TV many times in the past and now I can’t believe I am actually going to be playing in it.”


Courtesy of www.europeantour.com  

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