Markus Brier fired a five under par round of 67 to take the early lead at the Volvo China Open at Beijing CBD International Golf Club.
The 40 year old – who won this event in Shanghai in 2007 – made an excellent start with birdies at his opening two holes, the tenth and 11th, and overcame a bogey at the par three 12th with another birdie at the 13th before picking up a shot at the 15th to swiftly move to three under.
The Austrian then charged to the top of the leaderboard with three consecutive birdies at the second, third and fourth only to three putt the ninth and end his opening effort with a one shot lead over Nick Dougherty and David McKenzie.
“I hit some great iron shots and the putter was really hot as well which is a great combination,” said Brier. “I made all the crucial par saves as well and that really kept the round alive.
"I had my good breaks and at the end I missed a few fairways and made it a little bit tough on myself but I always felt comfortable. It was a really nice day, there was no wind, it was nice and warm and I made a really nice start for the first few holes, hitting a lot of fairways and making birdie chances."
England’s Dougherty, meanwhile, began his round in solid enough fashion with eight consecutive pars before catching fire around the turn.
The 26 year old, looking to recapture the form that brought him a seventh place finish at the 2007 US Open Championship, birdied the 18th, first and second before a two at the par three sixth saw him well in contention after posting a bogey free 68.
He said: “It was a great start. I played superbly and it has been coming for a while because I have been playing well recently.
“I think it has just been a case of finding my way out of where I have been over the last year – it has taken a bit longer than I thought and think that confidence is one of the last things to come back. But it was great – I could have easily birdied every hole on the back nine.
“Four under is a great score, no bogeys is great but it could have easily been eight or nine under which is a great thought to have because this golf course is superb. I am delighted, I really enjoyed it out there and I am just going to try and keep that going this week."
Australian McKenzie's challenge, meanwhile, was sparked by an eagle two at the 377 yard, par four fifth.
The Australian had played his first 13 holes in level par following two birdies and two bogeys but picked up further strokes at the sixth and eighth following his eagle to move alongside Dougherty.
“The funny thing is after three putting the previous hole, I was thinking as I walked along wouldn’t it be nice to hole a shot here and then make a couple of birdies coming in and shoot maybe three under, so four under was much better,” he said of his efforts at the fifth.
“It was 102 yards, flew straight in the cup. Took a little bit of the side off it but pretty much straight in. I saw it all the way down. It hit the flag and went straight in, so it was perfect.”
Dougherty’s compatriot Simon Dyson sits fourth after a three under 69, with Korea’s Choi Ho-sung, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Australia’s Matthew Millar two under.
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