Thailand’s Poom Saksansin produced a solid 2-under 68 in his opening around at the US$10.25 million World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational on Thursday and promptly got his reward – a signed autograph from English golf star Tommy Fleetwood.
Poom, making his debut at TPC Southwind in Memphis, carded three birdies on the 11th hole, 16th hole and first hole against a lone bogey to end the first day in a share of 18th place alongside current FedExCup No. 1 Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson and Fleetwood, runner-up at The Open Championship last weekend.
Immediately after his round, the 26-year-old Thai, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour and featuring in this week’s field after winning the BNI Indonesian Masters last December, approached Fleetwood for an autograph, telling the Englishman that he was a big fan. Fleetwood obliged with a signed glove.
Baby-faced Poom, 26, is making only his second World Golf Championships start following a T24 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in 2017.
His 68 left him six shots behind first round leader Jon Rahm of Spain, who carded a career low 62 to lead by three shots from a group of five golfers, including Japanese duo Hideki Matsuyama and Shugo Imahira.
China’s No. 1 Haotong Li endured a rollercoaster day en route to a 69 for T24, sprinkling his card with six birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey. The 23-year-old started his round strongly with three opening birdies from six feet, 16 feet and 13 feet before boarding the bogey train where he dropped five shots over a five-hole stretch to turn in 37.
However, the young Chinese, who is looking to safeguard his fifth position on the International Team standings for the Presidents Cup in December, bounced back on his inward nine with birdies on the 11th hole from 22 feet, 14th hole from nine feet and then sticking his tee shot close on the par 3 17th hole for his sixth birdie of the round.
He uncharacteristically missed the cut in his last two tournaments, including The Open Championship last week, but a commendable start in Memphis, known as the birth place for blues, soul and rock ‘n roll, is poised to ensure Li enjoys a solid week and take another closer towards a debut appearance in the Presidents Cup.
Korea’s Sung Kang, who won his first PGA TOUR title at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, carded a 69 which included an eagle 3 on the par 5 16th hole. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, ranked sixth on the International Team standings for the Presidents Cup, opened with a 72 which featured three birdies against five bogeys.