Thursday, 19 April 2007

Raphael Jacquelin continues to enjoy a fine run of form after a six under par 66 at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club earned the Frenchman an early two stroke lead in the BMW Asian Open.

Jacquelin, second in Portugal three weeks ago, led last week at nearby Shanghai Silport at the halfway stage before falling away at the weekend but was back to his best on a breezy opening day.

Seven birdies with just the one dropped shot put him two clear of compatriot Gregory Havret, Australian Gavin Flint and Korean Lee Sung, in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour and China Golf Association. Eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie was another to make a fine start in the group on three under par 69.

“I’m doing pretty well at the moment,” said Jacquelin, whose sole European Tour victory to date came in the 2005 Open de Madrid. “I played well in Portugal as well and finished second and last week I did well the first two rounds but it was a bit more difficult over the weekend. But the way I hit the ball and the way I made a few putts today were pretty good. The winds were getting stronger later in the day and I'm happy to shoot six under today.

“It's always good to shoot low in the first round and relax a bit and take the pressure off me. I'm going to play exactly the same tomorrow and take the same feelings that I've had over the last month and we'll see.”

Havret found his game after receiving some advice from another of the travelling band of French golfers, Jean-Francois Lucquin, although being superstitious by nature, refused to divulge exactly what the tip was.

Havret, twice a winner on The European Tour, got off to a flying start with birdies on his opening two holes. Although he dropped a shot on the testing par five ninth, he bounced back with three birdies in his next four holes on his way to completing a four under par 68.

“It was windy all last week and while it was a bit calmer the last couple of days the wind picked up today so here we go again,” said Havret. “We get used to playing in this wind and the rough is not as tough as last week so can still play some shots if we miss the fairway.

“I played well. My game has not been good the last couple of weeks and Jeff Lucquin gave me a few tips yesterday and they were brilliant. I am playing much better and feel very happy.”

Flint also got off to a spectacular start, holing a sand-wedge from 100 metres on the second for an improbable eagle. But it was his putting which was the key has he negotiated the course is a mere 20 putts.

“It's definitely exciting to get out there and having a good round straight away,” he said. “Getting out early I got the best of the conditions and it'll be interesting to see where 68 stands at the end of the day.”

Lee, who was born deaf and communicates through his father, played some stunning approach shots, with four of his five birdies coming from within ten feet and the other a chip in on the eighth hole.

Montgomerie was one of the few players not to drop a shot on a morning of swirling winds and quite content with his steady start.

“Not much to talk about with no bogeys,” said the Scot after his round. “That’s great. That’s what I have always prided myself on over the years, no bogeys. Three birdies isn’t that much but it is very difficult out there. Very windy and the greens are firm and the pins are in difficult positions.

“I finished third here last year, one off the play-off and hope to do a little bit better this year. I hit the ball well today. Didn’t putt well but three under is good with a number of chances which went away. I am in contention which what we want to do and I look forward to the rest of the week.”

World Number Eight Retief Goosen made a solid start, reaching the turn in two under par, but struggled with to find his range on the greens coming home to lie at one under par 71.

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