England’s Matthew Baldwin shot a seven under par 65 to hold a one shot clubhouse lead at the Volvo China Open.
The 26 year old Challenge Tour graduate’s effort saw him move a shot clear of compatriot Gary Boyd, Dutchman Joost Luiten, Australian Scott Strange, France’s Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Swede Fredrik Andersson-Hed Binhai Lake as he looks to build on a commendable start to his rookie European Tour campaign.
Baldwin recorded a top ten finish at the Africa Open, came 17th in Morocco, as well as making the cut in Sicily and Andalucía.
Birdies at the first, fifth, seventh and ninth saw him turn in 32 before further gains at the tenth, 11th and 17th, the last coming after an approach to six feet.
“It was very good today so I am happy with that,” he said.
“I just tried to keep everything as simple as I could. My caddie and I set out this morning with a game play of trying to make 18 pars and take our chances when they came, and it turned out to be one of those days where there were a lot of chances and I managed to take a few of them.”
Boyd, still seeking a first European Tour win after two runner-up finishes in his three seasons on Tour, had an eagle at the long 12th as well as a solitary bogey and five birdies, chipping in for a four at the par five 18th.
“I am usually a very slow starter but there have been encouraging signs recently,” said the 25 year old. “I went back to see my old coach a few weeks ago to see what thoughts he had on the state of my game and I have done some good practice at home on the back of that. Then to come out to Asia and play well last week and make a good start this week is good.”
Luiten, whose first European Tour victory came last year in Malaysia, started with a hattrick of birdies from the tenth, and, after a double bogey at the fourth, finished with three gains in his last four holes.
Strange, winner of this event in 2009, lost his card at the end of last season but put himself into contention with a bogey-free round.
He said: “It’s nice to shoot 66 – first time I have broken 70 for a while!
“I have been away from the golf course for a while. Things change in life and people become parents and your priorities change and all of a sudden golf just wasn’t that important to me for a while. But once you figure things and get back to the golf and make it a priority again then, hopefully the good results will come.”
Andersson-Hed, a former Italian Open champion, did most of his good work on the back nine with five birdies as he reached the turn in 31.
Gonnet already has two top-six finishes to his name this season and continued his good form with seven birdies and a single bogey.
Former Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie produced an opening 68 to lie just outside the top ten, while three of his charges from The Celtic Manor Resort, Peter Hanson, Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter, were all one under par.