Reinier Saxton shot a four under par round of 68 to share the lead with England’s Sam Walker and Germany’s Alexander Knappe when the first round of the Hainan Open concluded after three days.
After further heavy rain at Sanya Luhuitou GC this morning in China, Round One was delayed for four and a half hours, and the decision was taken to reduce the European Challenge Tour tournament to 36 holes with no cut.
With many finishing their first rounds this afternoon, the Dutchman was one of several players to make the most of the calm conditions, after heavy rain and wind affected those competing yesterday.
The 28 year old, who currently sits in 25th place in the Road to Oman Rankings, picked up five birdies and one bogey on his way to signing for the joint best round of the day.
Saxton was relieved to finish 18 holes in 72 hours, and is looking forward to competing for his first Challenge Tour title tomorrow.
“I am very happy with the way I played today,” he said. “For the first few holes there was no wind and we thought ‘if it stays like this, it will be very good for us’.
“After that the wind caught up a bit and the first nine, I played the second nine first, were quite tough. We still were very lucky today in the conditions.
“I hit a lot of greens out there, I think I hit 17 greens in total then it was on my last hole of the day where I didn’t manage to do that because it is a tough hole – and I made a bogey.
“Overall it was quite good, just really solid with a lot greens and a lot of fairways. I am going to try and keep the momentum going as we are due to play again tonight – I would like to stay out there as long as possible.
“I am not focusing on the change in the competition and the points system, as we just have to go out there to play. We will see what happens because you aren’t even playing with the leaders, but I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.”
Following the decision to restrict the tournament to 36 holes, the prize fund and ranking points for the tournament were reduced to 75% with the original $350,000 purse changing to $262,500.
Form horse Walker, who has finished first and tied second in his last two starts on Europe’s top developmental tour, is level with Saxton after carding six birdies and two bogeys while Challenge Tour Number Nine Knappe made five consecutive birdies on his way to also reaching four under par.
Play will restart in Sanya at 7.10am tomorrow, when some of Europe’s most up and coming golfers will battle it out in one of the final events on the 2016 Road to Oman.