Thailand’s Udorn Duangdecha joined clubhouse leader Robert-Jan Derksen at the top of the UBS Hong Kong Open leaderboard after making storming progress during his first round in damp afternoon conditions.
With two-time European Tour winner Derksen safely home after earlier carding a seven-under-par 63, Duangdecha reeled off five straight birdies around the turn to earn a share of the lead with six holes remaining.
The 39-year-old is enjoying his best season on the Asian Tour after doubling his career earnings with a career-best second place finish at the Queen's Cup before claiming third at last month’s Mercuries Taiwan Masters.
Derksen, who last tasted victory at the 2005 Madeira Island Open Caxia Geral de Depositos, finished with a flourish at Hong Kong Golf Club with five birdies and the only bogey of his round over the last six holes.
“It was very good. I didn’t hit many bad shots, just one three putt at 16,” said 2003 Dubai Desert Classic champion Derksen.
“I hit almost all the greens and fairways to give myself chances and I putted beautifully.”
Thongchai Jaidee, a two-time winner on The European Tour this season, joined defending champion Lin Wen-tang, David Dixon and Gregory Bourdy at six-under-par.
EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters champion SSP Chowrasia dropped his only shot at the last to join South African duo Rory Sabbatini and Charl Schwartzel in a group two shots off the pace.
The Race To Dubai leader Lee Westwood and nearest challenger Rory McIlroy sit at four under in a group including Mark O’Meara and China’s Liang Wen-chong.
Westwood leads McIlroy by a mere 52,321 euros at the top of the standings with the UBS Hong Kong Open representing the last event ahead of the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World.
Last year’s runner-up McIlroy, making his fifth trip to Hong Kong, dropped just one shot in the middle of his back nine but was able to finish his first round as he started it with a birdie.
“I am happy with 66. I could have let it get away from me on the front nine, my back nine, but it is OK,” said McIlroy.
“I am in a good position but there is still a lot of golf left to play so it was nice to get off to a good start.”
Despite struggling with the grain of the putting surfaces during his first competitive trip around the tight tree-lined course, Westwood hit 17 out of 18 greens as the Portugal Masters champion shipped just two bogeys.
“It was good, the only green I missed was the last hole I played and it is a tough green at number nine. I had a lot of chances,” said Westwood.
“It is pretty obvious tee to green, but there is a big advantage having played a few tournaments around here so to start with a 66 I am delighted because the only two bogeys I made were three putts and I missed a lot of chances.”