Well rested Welshman Bradley Dredge proved he was refreshed and ready for action when he moved into a share of the lead with Australia’s Unho Park after the first round of the Volvo China Open, the first counting event on The 2005 European Tour International Schedule.
The 31 year old from Tredegar carded a five under par 67 to move alongside the Singapore-based Park in the first of the season’s joint-sanctioned events between The European Tour and the Asian Tour.
Six players shared second place on 68 – Marc Cayeux, Jason Dawes, Stephen Dodd, Amandeep Johl, Matthew King and Barry Lane – Cayeux and King both taking advantage of their finish in the top 15 on the 2004 Challenge Tour Rankings to make an early impression in their respective rookie seasons on The European Tour.
But the main plaudits of the day went to Dredge and Park, the Welshman carding five birdies and an eagle at the 14th to counteract his dropped shots at the 11th and 17th while Park, who finished third in the event last year, was flawless, five birdies in his first ten holes being the 32 year old’s only departures from par.
Dredge, who played in last week's WGC-World Cup in Spain and finished 60th on the 2004 Volvo Order of Merit, gave himself the perfect start in his search for a second career win, his maiden victory having come in the 2003 Madeira Island Open.
While some of his compatriots have struggled with jetlag, Dredge has been wide-eyed. "I've heard from some of the guys that they are struggling with jetlag, but I've slept really well since arriving late on Tuesday night from Spain. I played quite nicely on the back nine,” said the 31 year old.
Dredge had a great run on the inward half, holing a 20 footer on the 13th, chipping in for eagle at the next hole before rolling in a 15 footer on the 15th. He dropped a shot on the short 17th but birdied the last after nearly chipping in again for eagle.
Joint leader Park recently underwent laser surgery on his eyes and his all-round game today was as sharp as his vision. He was five under through ten holes but took his foot off the pedal soon after, parring home.
"I drove really well and hit my irons nicely,” he said. “When I was five under, I missed a few short putts. It was one of those days where you play well but don't feel happy. I left about four shots out there on the back nine.
"The key to this week is to drive the ball well and I'm doing that right now. My confidence is there. Last week I won at one of the venues for the Japan Qualifying School Third Stage and also finished third here last year.
"I had to miss three events on the Asian Tour recently as I had a laser eye surgery to correct my vision. I don't really know if that has helped or it's due to a new putter in my bag, could be a combination of both I guess.”
Further down the leaderboard, defending champion Lian-Wei Zhang of China enjoyed a strong start with a 69 as he successfully blocked out the pain of an injured hip. He had a jittery start with bogeys on the second and third before charging back with a strong back nine of 32.
"I started to relax from the tenth after birdieing that hole and started to play better,” he said. “My concentration wasn't good at the start, it was really up and down but that birdie was the turning point. I started playing nicely after that.
"I have had treatment for the past two days on my hip and left thigh but not this morning as it would have affected my performance. There wasn't any pain this morning as I was just concentrating on what I needed to do out there. I forgot about the pain. “
For the first time in the Volvo China Open, Volvo Event Management President and CEO, Mel Pyatt, conducted his first-tee tradition of greeting players alongside European Tour Executive Director-designate George O'Grady, and Asian Tour Chief Executive, Louis Martin.