HK players out of contention

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 July, 1999, 12:00am

Asian stars Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng are on the threshold of British Open qualification after masterful five-under-par 66s over the tight Monifieth Links course in Scotland.

But Hong Kong's Dominique Boulet and locally based professional Kyi Hla Han look like having to wait another year for a chance to go head-to-head with the likes of Tiger Woods and Colin Montgomerie after shooting 79 and 74, respectively, on the same course.

The quartet are among a group of 33 players from the Davidoff Tour who are attempting to make it through to the 128th Open Championship at Carnoustie later this week.

Singh, who graduated to the European Tour last season after winning three titles in Asia, and Prayad, also a three-time winner, are just one shot adrift of South Africa's Wayne Westner on the par-71 Monifieth course and look good to claim two of the 12 qualification spots. Qualifying is played over two rounds.

The Indian, currently in the top 25 on the European Order of Merit, birdied the last three holes to put himself in contention for a place in the Open at the fourth attempt, while Prayad overcame a double bogey at the third hole to fire seven birdies. He is taking part in qualifying for the third time.

'I have been practising in Thailand for three weeks with qualification in mind,' said Prayad. 'I know from the other years here that you have to hit the ball low and straight on links courses.' The warm weather and light breeze made it easier for Singh and Prayad, but Boulet and Han failed to take advantage of the benign conditions.

Boulet, playing in British Open qualifying for the seventh time, was struggling from the par-three fifth hole when he went out of bounds off the tee and ran up a triple bogey six.

'I am at a loss what to do. I have been fiddling with my swing and, on some shots, I have no idea where the ball is going to end up,' he said. 'It is no fun playing golf like that.' Han, whose victory in this year's Volvo China Open convinced him to return to qualifying a decade after his last attempt, blamed poor putting for his three-over 74.

'I really did not get the breaks with my putter today,' said Han, who is from Burma. 'I played okay and thought I could make up some shots over the closing holes, which were playing downwind. But I pushed my tee shot at the 15th and lost a ball. I took double bogey which ended it for me.' While Singh and Prayad look good bets to tee it up at Carnoustie on Thursday, Korea's Choi Kyung-ju and Kim Jong-duk are already through thanks to victories in Japan this year.

Choi qualified for Royal Birkdale last year and opened with a par 70. But he failed to cope with the strong wind on the second day and missed the cut after firing an 80.

'I am better prepared this year and will be more relaxed. I used a driver at all the par fours and fives last year and hit trouble in the rough - at Carnoustie I will be hitting three woods and irons,' said Choi.