“I just wasn’t able to hole my putts today. I left a lot of putts short,” said the 37-year-old American. “Making putts will be the biggest challenge for me this week. Putting is always the key for me, not the miles I’ve travelled or how tired I am.”
The 40-year-old Donaldson needs victory here at the Asian Tour’s marquee event on the outskirts of Bangkok to have a chance of forcing his way back into the world’s top-50 and ensure he gets automatic entry into the biggest events on the calendar next year – including the Majors.
“I couldn’t really do things wrong today,” said Donaldson, who sealed the deciding point in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2014. “I just need to continue this form for the next few days. I will just try to keep playing well and not concentrate on things that are out of my control or ahead of me. I just want to stay in the presence as they say and take it one day at a time.”
Donaldson got straight down to business with four-straight birdies to start the day, then five spread down the back nine including both the 17th and 18th for a blemish-free day.
“I played really good all day. I never really missed any fairways,” he said. “It’s a great place and lots of fun to be had. The weather’s perfect. You got to stay hydrated and just enjoy yourself.”
The nine-under left the Welshman three clear of Garcia and Thai pair Chanat Sakulpolphaisan and Chinnarat Phadungsil, with fellow local Natipong Srithong and American Brett Munson a further stroke back in third at five-under-par.
Garcia was another one of the international to light up the course Thursday and the galleries which lined the fairways all day.
The Spanish world number 12 went on a tear of his own down the back straight, with six birdies including one that came from a monster 40-foot putt that snaked its way into the hole on the 16th green.
“On one like that you hit it more or less towards where you think the hole is and you’re hoping to two putt and maybe if you’re lucky just find the hole and it did,” he said of the putt.
“It was just one of those things. It was definitely a bonus. But overall I am feeling good. I hit some very good shots throughout the day and I feel like I’m in a good position.”
Two-time Major winner Kaymer is back at the Thailand Golf Championship after just failing to force Lee Westwood into a play-off last year, finishing joint-second and one stroke behind the Englishman.
Kaymer also went bogey-free on a day that ended with 10 players within five strokes of Donaldson’s lead, while two-time Thailand Golf Championship winner Westwood signed for a one-under 71.
“It was a tough day as it was very hot but I played really solid,” said the 30-year-old Kaymer. “My putting was good and the only fairway I missed was on 16 but I had a good save there for par. So overall four under par is a very good start.
“Last year I just missed out on the play-off by one shot and that was one reason for me to come back. I enjoy the golf course and I fancy my chances and I started off okay today.”
Leading the charge for the locals is the 25-year-old Chanat, outright leader at one stage before being swamped by Donaldson’s charge.
“This is probably the biggest event that I’ve played in since turning professional last June,” said Chanat. “There are four places for The Open at Royal Troon available here and that is my aim this week – to get one of those.”
About the Thailand Golf Championship
Organized by Gulf Sports Management and IMG, and sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the fifth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship will be staged at the award-winning Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi between 10-13 December. The Championship, the Asian Tour’s season-ending event, has a total prize purse of US$1 million, and has been part of the Open Qualifying Series since 2014. The Thailand Golf Championship will be broadcast globally by Asian Tour Media and in Thailand by TrueVisions.
Former winners of the Championship are: Lee Westwood (2011), Charl Schwartzel (2012), Sergio Garcia (2013) and Lee Westwood (2014).