Adam Scott shot a spectacular seven under par 64 in the opening round of the Omega Hong Kong Open to lead Paul McGinley, José Maria Olazábal, and James Stewart by a shot.
Scott, playing with Olazábal, fired seven birdies and an eagle, including playing a four hole stretch around the turn in five under par, to take the young Australian to the top of the leaderboard.
The 21 year old, who captured his maiden European Tour title in January when he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, got off to a flying start with a hat-trick of birdies on his opening three holes. After dropping a shot on the 192 yards fifth hole, Scott hit back with another three consecutive birdies from the ninth followed by an eagle three on the 529 yards 12th hole.
Another bogey followed on the next short hole, the 15th, but a seventh birdie of the round on the 17th completed a 64.
“I’m very happy,” said Scott. “I got off to a really good start and after the three opening birdies, it went from there. The bogey on five cooled things down a little but the ninth to the 12th really got me in great shape.
“I could have had another great round and was thinking of double digits for the day but the bogey on the 15th cooled me down again. It really helped playing alongside Olazabal as he played so solid - he could have been eight under on the front nine,” said Scott, who cracked a two iron to 15 feet for the eagle on the 12th.
Olazábal, runner-up to Jarmo Sandelin in last week’s BMW Asian Open, continued his excellent form with a vintage display in which he picked up four birdies on the front nine of 31. Three more on the 11th, 12th and 14th took the Spaniard to seven under par but a bogey on the last after an errant drive into the woods cost him a share of the lead.
McGinley carded seven birdies, his only blemish coming on the sixth hole, as he launched his 2002 campaign with a 65.
Local professional Stewart had set the clubhouse target on six under par having been in the second group out. The 26 year old, playing on his home course, has his younger brother Nicholas on the bag and his parents, who flew in from South Africa leading the cheering squad.
“It is a great feeling. After making the cut in Taiwan last week, it gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve been playing well in Fanling recently in practice rounds, so it is nice to put it together in a tournament,” said Stewart, who
was the club champion in 1995.
Among the players on five under par is England’s Mark Foster, winner of the 2001 Challenge Tour Rankings, and Qualifying School Graduate Matthew Cort, embarking on his rookie season.
New Zealand’s Michael Campbell is also in the group on 67 along with the 1999 Champion Patrick Sjoland while a shot further back England’s Simon Dyson made a solid start to the defence of his title with a 68.
Dyson's victory here 12 months ago was his third of the season and clinched the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit title.
After earning his European Tour card by holing an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole in the Qualifying School Finals a few weeks later, Dyson went on to finish 87th on the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit. But after his success in Asia he felt it was a largely disappointing season.
"That's more like what I can play like," Dyson said after four birdies and no bogeys in his 67. "That was just the start I wanted. I haven't shot under par for a couple of tournaments.
"It just feels great when you play a course you've won on before you remember all the shots you hit last year and seem to hit them again.”