Alvaro Quiros feels he is getting close to his best form after a five under par 67 gave him a share of the first round lead alongside Simon Dyson at the 20th Volvo China Open in Shenzhen.
Quiros, one of the game’s longest hitters, won six times on The European Tour between 2007 and 2011 and reached 21st on the Official World Golf Ranking when he captured the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
But injuries and a loss of form saw the 31 year old fail to record a top-three finish in the last three seasons and slip outside the game’s top 250 at the turn of the year.
There were signs of improvement as Quiros made five cuts out of five at the start of the 2014 season – including a fifth-place finish in Johannesburg – and that continued with four birdies, a bogey and an eagle at the long 13th at Genzon Golf Club.
“It was a good round of golf,” said Quiros, who holed a six footer at the last to join Dyson on five under. “It was a bit of a shame on the last par five because I was half a metre away from having a great chance to make another eagle but I ended up on the lip of the bunker and had to settle for a chip and two putts.
“You can’t see it yet on the rankings but I have been playing better. The Middle East swing was a good three weeks for me then I had a good result in Joburg and the last couple of weeks have been better.”
Dyson won this event in 2000 before it became sanctioned by The European Tour, and is looking to become the first player to capture the title twice.
The Englishman bogeyed his opening hole, but responded with six birdies, the last of which came when he got up-and-down from the edge of the ninth green.
“I started on the tenth today and the first nine holes I played was the best I have played for quite some time,” said the 36 year old, who like Quiros has six European Tour titles to his name.
“I really didn’t miss a shot. I missed two fairways just, and didn’t miss a green so gave myself a lot chances which is always nice and then I managed to make a couple of birdies on the other side for a tidy five under. It was a good start and very pleasing.
“I have to say that because I was absolutely horrendous in the pro-am yesterday. I just went on the range for a couple of hours and managed to find something which I took out on to the course and it seemed to work for me.
“I’ll tell you what – it is an unbelievable finishing hole. If you need to make par on that hole to win on Sunday and you manage to get it done then you will deserve everything you get because it is a very tough finish.
“I have had a bit of success here and really enjoy playing in China. Obviously I have won this tournament before so that always gives you a good feeling and like I said, I just played nicely today so hopefully I can continue to do that over the next three days.”
Dyson and Quiros were one clear of defending champion Brett Rumford, English rookie Tyrell Hatton, his compatriot David Horsey and Spanish Challenge Tour graduate Adrian Otaegui, with Park Il-hwan and Alexander Levy four under playing the par five ninth when play was suspended due to bad light.
“There is a long way to go and there are a lot of very good players here this week so I just need to try and keep playing and scoring the way I did over the next two rounds and try to get myself into a position where I have a chance to win coming down the back nine on Sunday,” said Rumford.
“That’s what we’re all trying to do over those first three rounds and in that regard today was very much the start I was looking for.”
Having birdied his first four holes, Raphaël Jacquelin took the outright lead with further gains at the ninth and tenth.
However, the Frenchman came unstuck with a quadruple bogey eight at the 15th – a drive into water followed by a third into a fairway bunker where an awkward stance meant he could only hack out. His fifth also found sand and, although he splashed out to three feet, a missed putt saw him plummet into the chasing pack and eventually sign for a 69, the same score as Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter.
World Number Three Henrik Stenson was one under for his round, but US PGA Champion Jason Dufner could only manage a one over 73.