Jaidee puts stars in the shade

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Some of the biggest names in the game were pushed into the shade in Perth yesterday by the world's 171st-ranked player – a man who spent 11 years as a paratrooper before turning professional three seasons ago.

Thongchai Jaidee, of Thailand, was the surprise leader with a 67 after the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup, two strokes ahead of Sergio Garcia and Michael Campbell.

Lee Westwood and Ernie Els were five behind despite what Westwood called probably his best display for more than a year. Colin Montgomerie already has nine strokes to make up and last week's winner, Justin Rose, two more than that after a disappointing 78.

When he qualified for a US Open debut last summer, Jaidee had the Americans laughing – and not just about the fact that he was sleeping on the floor of his $200 (£140)-a-night hotel room with a towel under his head because the mattress and pillows were too soft. "There have been jokes about the fact that Tiger Woods is half-Thai," he said. "The world hasn't seen what a full Thai player can do." Those who follow Asian golf, however, already know. Jaidee recently won their Order of Merit with 11 top-10 finishes in 17 starts.

Garcia, his playing partner, was certainly impressed. Although nervous about a round with the world No 4, Jaidee recorded birdies at two of his first three holes and then came home in 33 to snatch the lead from Campbell, who hit bogeys at three of his last six holes.

Like Campbell, Garcia hit a 69. The highlight of his round was a four-iron to nine feet for an eagle at the 531-yard 15th.

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