A breathtakingly brilliant round of 62 saw Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin take control on the first day of the inaugural Qingdao Golf Open on the European Challenge Tour.
Maybin matched the soaring temperatures at Qingdao Huashan Golf & Resort in Qingdao, China, with some blistering strokeplay to move to ten under par, three shots clear of his nearest challengers, Norway’s Lars Brovold and Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon.
With €56,049 on offer to the winner this week, and an even bigger prize fund available in Kazakhstan next week, Maybin – currently in 15th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings – could not have found form at a better time.
But having come close to victory four times this term, the man from Belfast is refusing to get carried away with his career-best performance.
He said: “It was a once in a blue moon, maybe once in a lifetime round, but it’s only the first day. If I go and shoot 75 tomorrow, it will have been a waste of time. But obviously I’m delighted – it’s not every day you shoot a 62. In fact, I’ve never done it before! At least it goes some way toward making up for the disappointment of the last two weeks, when I missed the cut and then missed a really short putt to make the play-off the week before in the Czech Republic.
“But I’m moving in the right direction. I drove the ball well, and I hit it close with my irons on most holes. I’ve probably also got a bit of an advantage on the greens, because I got used to putting on this type of grass when I was in college in America. The course isn’t easy though – but maybe I just made it look easy!”
Whilst perhaps less spectacular, Hutcheon’s flawless round of 65 was no less impressive, given that he was forced to withdraw from last week’s tournament with a leg injury.
The Scot admitted he had struggled with his game in Gothenburg seven days ago, but welcomed a return to form in time for the “big fortnight” which he feels will make or break his season.
Hutcheon said: “I need a big week here, and then another next week, so I can take a couple of weeks off – because I really need them. I’ve made a good start – it was just one of those days when most things seemed to go my way. But I’ve learned from bitter experience that tomorrow can just as easily go the other way.”
Hutcheon’s round of 65 was matched by Brovold, who posted nine birdies.