Raphaël Jacquelin, runner-up in his last event two week’s ago, continues to mine a rich vein of form after a three under par 68 at Shanghai Silport Golf Club earned the Frenchman a share of the first round lead with China’s Huang Ming-jie in the Volvo China Open.
In conditions not dissimilar to those in the Estoril Open de Portugal a fortnight ago, where Jacquelin finished second to Pablo Martin, a stiff wind buffeted the superb Shanghai Silport course, resulting in only 14 players breaking par.
Jacquelin, however, was unfazed, favouring the windy conditions as he rolled in five birdies with just the two dropped shots.
“I said to my caddie as we set out, anything under par will be good so just try and par every hole,” said Jacquelin. “We knew we would have to chip and putt all day long. Par would have been a good score and three under is even better. Anything under par is a great score. It is going to be tough to score under par so you just have to try and save pars on every hole.”
Jacquelin held the outright lead after moving to four under par but bogeys on the par five 14th and the 17th, both as a result of three putts, saw him drop back until securing a birdie on the last to tie Huang.
Huang got his round going after a difficult start which saw him drop three shots in as many opening holes. But he rallied well, coming home in four under par to lead a tournament otherwise billed as the Open Golf Championship of China.
Huang is now hoping to follow Liang Wen-chong, winner of the jointly sanctioned Clariden Leu Singapore Masters, as a European Tour Champion.
“His success in Singapore increased our confidence in winning a tournament,” admitted Huang. "We would all like to follow the footsteps of Liang and Zhang. And to win the Volvo China Open is every players’ desire. It would mean a lot more to me being a Chinese player to win the Open in my homeland.”
American Gary Rusnak emerged as their nearest challenger in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour, the Asian Tour and the China Golf Association at two under par 69 while a host of players, 11 to be precise, are locked on one under par.
They include the highest ranked player in the field, Thomas Björn, who battled against the tough morning conditions to shoot a 70. The Danish Ryder Cup player flew to Shanghai from Augusta but successfully adjusted to the new test.
“Coming from Augusta is a big adjustment,” admitted Björn. “You come from the widest fairways of the year to the narrowest of the year here. You come from a golf course that was very tricky but you can take a lot of positives into a tournament like this because when the conditions are as they are today it is all a grind and you already have your grinding head on from last week. To take some positives from last week, you have to grind and that is what I did.”
Graeme McDowell chipped in for an eagle three on the last to join the growing band on one under par while Chinese hopes of a first home winner wince 2003 were further boosted by Qiu Zhi-feng. Former caddie Qiu recovered from a double bogey at the first hole and further dropped shots at the fourth and fifth with five birdies.