Spain’s José Manuel Lara and India’s Jyoti Randhawa continue to ride a wave of confidence in moving into a share of the first round lead in the UBS Hong Kong Open. Both players arrived in Hong Kong on the back of strong performances in their last outings and continued the good form with six under par rounds of 64 at Hong Kong Golf Club.
Bursts of low scoring from China’s Liang Wen-chong, who went birdie-eagle-birdie from the second, and Graeme Storm, who had six successive birdies from his second hole, contributed to both players shooting 65 to share third place along with Frenchman Gregory Bourdy.
For Lara, his first round of the 2007 European Tour International Schedule continued the form he showed at the end of the 2006 campaign when he finished joint third in the Mallorca Classic and joint ninth in the Volvo Masters.
“It was a very good round,” said Lara. “I made no mistakes, six birdies and I drove the ball well. Looks like I am starting the year as I finished last year. I just had a couple of weeks off but that is not much and I am having the same feelings. I am playing with confidence.”
Lara has long been tipped as a potential European Tour champion, finishing runner-up four times in recent years, and feels that elusive maiden victory could be just around the corner.
“I have been leading big tournaments like at The K Club and Volvo Masters with strong fields and feel that I am there with them. I have been a little unlucky. I will try and make it four steady rounds this week. I can feel something is coming but it is too early to talk about a win.”
Randhawa led after two days of the HSBC Champions last week and once again made an impressive start, finishing his round off with a stunning second shot that pulled up just inches short of the cup.
“I think the confidence from last week is spilling over to this week,” said Randhawa. “Especially playing in the leading group the last two days and playing with Tiger Woods the third day, I learnt a lot. I learnt how to handle myself better. I stayed committed to me shots today and it turned out well.”
Storm raced out of the blocks with a six birdie charge from the second before, as he put it, “reality hit”, and he bogeyed the next three. Fortunately he steadied the ship and picked up two more shots for an opening five under par 65 to lie one back.
“The start was a dream come true,” said Storm. “The first couple of birdies get you started and to follow that with another four was fantastic. Then reality hits and I made three bogeys in a row. I then settled down and made a couple of birdies coming in.”
It was also a good day for India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, winner of the Volvo Masters last month, in his bid to seal the Asian Tour Order of Merit. If he finishes top Asian player this week, the title is his and a four under par 66 was a good start.
But it was a poor day on the greens for three of the pre-tournament favourites as Goosen, McGinley and Montgomerie all cited poor putting for shooting rounds of 70, 71 and 60 respectively.
“I just putted horrendously,” said Montgomerie. “Lipped out on the last. It was unbelievable. Lipped out on 17. Just summed up the whole day. Never mind. I will just try and make the cut tomorrow I suppose. I’m striking the ball fine. Just didn’t score.”
Campbell fared slightly better in shooting 68 but it was his right ankle causing him problems after it gave way during the Pro-Am.
“I am lucky I am actually playing,” said the 2005 US Open Champion. “I was hobbling along yesterday but today it feels a bit better although I can’t really follow through. I will try and get through this week and get more treatment on it. It was a bit of a struggle. But I managed to turn a 73 into a 68 by holing some good putts for birdies and pars. It wasn’t that great but good to actually get a number on the board.”
|1||LARA, José Manuel||ESP||18||-15|
|T3||SINGH, Jeev Milkha||IND||18||-12|
|T6||JIMÉNEZ, Miguel Angel||ESP||18||-11|