Thursday, 19 April 2007

Raphael Jacquelin holds a one stroke lead after the first round of the BMW Asian Open after a three putt on the final hole by Søren Kjeldsen cost the Dane a share of pole position at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.

Jacquelin set the early target with a morning round of 66, six under par, which was threatened by Kjeldsen until he bogeyed the last for a 67. Ernie Els, winner by a massive 13 strokes here two years ago, posted a one under par 71.

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.

“I’m doing pretty well at the moment,” said Jacquelin, whose sole European Tour victory to date came on the 2005 Open de Madrid. “I played well in Portugal as well and finished second and last week I did well in 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 were pretty good today. The winds were getting stronger later in the day and I'm happy to shoot six under.”

Kjeldsen drew level with Jacquelin with six birdies in his first 14 holes. But his approach to the new 18th hole pulled up short, leaving Kjeldsen with a treacherous line over a hill. His first putt lacked pace, caught the slope and finished 20 feet away. He was unable to save par and had to settle for a 67.

“I played well and made the putts I needed to make,” said Kjeldsen. “You are going to get in trouble a couple of times when the wind is blowing like this and you need the putter to save you and it did a couple of times.”

Lying two shots off the pace in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour and China Golf Association are Frenchman Gregory Havret, Australian Gavin Flint and Korean Lee Sung. Eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie another to make a fine start in the group on three under par 69.

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.

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.

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 was 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. That score was matched by fellow South African Ernie Els, although two three putts in successive holes after the turn left the World Number Five rueing a missed opportunity.

“I played good enough,” said Els. “I three putted the tenth and 11th but really played quite nicely. Missed quite a few putts, misread a few putts.

“The wind was blowing quite a bit and affected the ball quite a lot of the time. Anything under par today meant you played good golf. I thought the golf course was playing quite tough.

“I just didn’t want to shoot myself out of it. I had some chances. I could have been three under easily and missed chances coming in but we have three days left and I have to keep going.”

John Daly, always a huge crowd attraction, had little joy as he crashed to a seven over par 79.

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