Matthieu Pavon carded a seven under par round of 65 to take a one-shot lead after the first day of the Foshan Open on the European Challenge Tour.
With just two tournaments after this one, the race for a European Tour card is heating up, and the Frenchman is one of a number of players competing for a place in the top 16, currently residing in tenth place on the 2016 Road to Oman.
The 23 year old, who earned his Challenge Tour playing rights for this season by making the cut at Qualifying School Final Stage, made eight birdies and one bogey to edge ahead of Sweden’s Pontus Widegren.
The man from Toulouse is very confident about his game after today’s showing, and is hopeful of cementing his place near the top of the Road to Oman Rankings with a good performance this week.
“Everything was pretty good today,” he said. “I played very well from the tee to the fairway and I was very happy with my iron play which gave me so many birdie chances.
“I made a lot of putts from around 12 feet which was down to the distance control from my irons –that’s why I was really close to the flag today.
“The change in the weather did have an impact, but I think that you have to just do your best whenever you are on the course – no matter what is in front of you. You have to wait and be patient and try to ignore the conditions.
“It is my first time in Foshan and the tournament organisation here is perfect. We feel like we are playing at a European Tour event, as the course is perfectly designed and is a great place to come at this point in the season.
“I know where I am in the Rankings but I do not want to think about my position too much. I just try to focus on every shot and keep up my concentration while on the course. There is a lot of money on offer this week, so a good performance here could make my season.”
One adrift of Pavon is Widegren, who made five birdies in his first six holes before going on to sign for a six under par round of 66 in southern China.
“I got off to a really good start and birdied what felt like every hole in the beginning,” he said. “I made four in a row then hit a great shot on the par three 16th, I tapped the pin and it went to five feet then I narrowly missed my putt for birdie.
“I was really pleased with the way I drove the ball. That has always been the key for me as if I can drive the ball and keep it in position then I can play aggressively with my irons. It definitely clicked today and I made some really nice putts early on.
“I didn’t play a practice round as I got in to the tournament late on Sunday, so arrived here on Tuesday night. But I played here two years ago, and have had good rounds here before, so despite not playing I was still confident coming into this week.”
Seven players are two back on five under par, including New Zealand’s Ryan Fox who represented New Zealand at the Olympic Games this summer.
The highest-placed Chinese players in the field are He Zeming, Huang Wen-yi and Su Dong who all lie in tied tenth place on four under par.