CHON BURI, Thailand – Seeking his first victory since the 2011 Masters, Charl Schwartzel shot a 7-under 65 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Thailand Golf Championship.
The South African made seven birdies in a bogey-free round at the Amata Spring Country Club, four coming in the opening seven holes, to hold a one-shot advantage over Thitiphun Chuayprakong.
''I'm very happy with the way my game has started getting back,'' Schwartzel said. ''Last month and a half, I've been able to start working on my swing again and getting my swing back to what it was a year or so ago.
''My consistency is coming back, and that to me is key.''
''It was a solid round, but I made a few mistakes,'' said Watson, this year's Masters winner. ''Hit a cart patch and bounced into the woods and had to take an unplayable (lie), and had a three-putt on the 17th.''
Daniel Chopra shot a 67 to share third with Javi Colomo.
Schwartzel opened his round with two straight birdies, picked up two more shots at Nos. 6 and 7 and then holed birdie putts on three of the last six holes on the 7,453-yard course.
''I found many fairways and, to me, that's the key on this golf course because the rough is so high,'' Schwartzel said. ''It's nice to put yourself in position.
''You're not going to win the golf tournament after Round 1, but you sure can lose it.''
The 20-year-old Thitiphun, who only last week secured his Asian Tour card at a tournament in Khon Kaen, played without pressure to move into second place.
''My drives were traveling well. The condition was perfect as the green was soft and the fairways were great,'' he said.
Sergio Garcia (69) shared 10th place with Thaworn Wiratchant, the current No. 1 on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit.