Thursday, 21 April 2011
Han Chang-won  (Getty Images)
Han Chang-won (Getty Images)

Han Chang-won enjoyed the best day of his fledgling professional career to lead the Volvo China Open after the opening round in Chengdu.

An eight under par 64 put the 19 year old Korean a shot clear of Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, Welshman Bradley Dredge, England’s James Morrison, Dane Søren Kjeldsen and also Keith Horne – although the South African still had four holes to play after bad light forced play to be suspended.

The former Asian Amateur Champion – who confirmed his potential by winning the OneAsia Tour’s Qualifying School - started at the tenth and had two birdies on the way out, before adding further gains on the first and fourth.

But it was a run of four straight birdies over the closing stretch that brought him home in 30 and propelled him to the top of the leaderboard - a 25 foot putt at the eighth amongst the highlights.

“It’s very good weather and I got a bit lucky today,” said Han, for whom this is a first campaign in the professional ranks. “I missed a few easy shots but most of the time I was perfect and hit the fairways and got close to the pins.

“I felt comfortable going into those last four holes which I birdied. I didn’t really feel any pressure and it was a good finish.

“Luxehills is a good course and I really like it. The greens and fairways are in good condition and we have good weather. When I played in Masters in America the conditions were like this.

“I’ve been playing golf for nine years. I’ve only been professional from this year. I play for the national team. I’ve not made much money yet as a professional so it would be nice to get some this week!

“I look up to both K J Choi and Y E Yang. I always think about them and would like to win like them.”

Former Madeira Islands Open winner Morrison believes he has a good chance of a second European Tour victory after an impressive start.

“My strengths are driving it straight, short irons and chipping and putting which is this golf course all over so before I even got here and playing Tuesday morning I thought I like this place but  it’s hard not to get ahead of yourself,” he said.

“When I won in Madeira and in Seville when I finished second I stood on the first tee and thought I like this place and I did that here, thinking this place suits me.”

Kjeldsen revealed friendly conditions had been a factor on a day of low scoring.

“I played really good today and got off to a good start,” he said. “Nothing much happened on the back nine and I got a nice birdie on the last. It’s never easy but today felt relatively easy compared to normal. I know golf too well to expect anything.”

Maybin has been a runner-up on The European Tour three times but is still seeking a first victory.

Like Han he was bogey free at Luxehills International Country Club, mixing five birdies with an eagle at the par five first.

“I putted really nicely today but didn’t actually play that great,” he said. “You can get away with quite a bit out here. I was a little fortunate to say the least.

“I drove it poorly but luckily my wedges and putting were very good so I got away with it a little bit. The short game saved me a bit today - I putted great.

“Anytime you shoot 65 you’ve got to be happy. I’ll take a lot from that. I need to knuckle down and play well again tomorrow. I’ve been playing pretty poorly so to shoot 65 is pretty good. I’m not thinking about winning, or top ten or making the cut.”

New Zealander Michael Campbell also continued his recent improvement with a five under par 67.

The former US Open Champion made only four cuts in two years after a string of injury woes.

But he reached the weekend for the first time in 2011 at the Sicilian Open a month ago and has since finished 19th in Morocco and 35th in Malaysia.

And Campbell revealed his renaissance has been in no small part down to an Olympic rowing legend.

“Every week seems to be getting better for me,” said Campbell. “I didn’t finish it off last week in Malaysia but today I played great from tee to green and putted better.

“I missed a few short ones coming in but beside that it was a real solid first round. It’s a snowball effect. I’m growing in confidence with each shot, each putt, each chip. You ask any athlete - confidence is not something you can buy from the corner store. You have to earn it.

“Definitely over the last three or four weeks it’s been that way. I’ve turned the corner now. I’m over that hump. It was a huge hump but I knew that if I worked hard and preserved I’d get there.

“It’s just getting advice from people who have been there. Sir Steve Redgrave and I had a chat about six months ago sharing a car together at the Dunhill Links last year.

“We went from Carnoustie to St Andrews which is about 45minutes so it was very inspiring 45minutes talking to Steve. He’s great and very supportive.

“I’ve known Steve for a long time maybe six years. I always wanted to talk to Steve about it. He had to wait every four years to win his golds so patience was his biggest issue.

“The thing I took from his conversation was once you’ve tasted, once you’ve been there you can do it again. There’s no reason why you can’t.”

Spain's Sergio Garcia continued his good recent form with a six under par round, while three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington shot a one under 71.

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