Spaniard Javi Colomo produced a superb 64 to lead compatriot Miguel Angel Jiménez and Australia’s Andrew Dodt by one after the first round of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Colomo qualified for the event off his Asian Tour ranking, having failed to come through The European Tour Qualifying School on three occasions.
The 28 year old actually began with ten pars in a row, but five birdies in the next six holes brought him alongside Jiménez and after completing a front nine 29 he finished his day’s work with a four foot putt for yet another birdie at the 367 yard tenth.
“I played really, really good today – from the tee, on the greens, everything,” he said.
“I was very relaxed after the first nine holes, and I had opportunities for birdies and I had luck on the greens.
“Last year I lost my card on The Challenge Tour and my category in The European Tour, so there’s only one way to go to The European Tour.
“I had luck to get the card and the Q School on the Asian Tour and now I am 33 in the rankings. That’s perfect, because next year I will play the co-sanctioned tournaments with The European Tour. It’s a very good chance to improve, and why not to win a tournament and go to The European Tour?”
It could so easily have been Jiménez’s day, but after seven birdies the 48 year old, twice a winner of the title and now trying to become The European Tour’s oldest-ever champion, finished with two bogeys and slipped back alongside Dodt, who is playing with the added pressure of needing to improve his Race to Dubai ranking by three places to retain his European Tour card.
“I’m putting very well and it’s a pity I missed a fairway on the ninth and then on the last got a big flyer,” Jiménez said.
“It’s an old-fashioned course – not very long, but you need to be very precise.”
He was playing with fellow countryman and Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, who in a return to form shot 66 and said: “I hit three poor shots, but apart from those the rest of the game was pretty solid.
“Obviously I have to consolidate this the next few days, but it’s nice to have some signs like this one.”
Dodt, €1,921 behind Rhys Davies who occupies the 119th spot on The Race to Dubai, was thrilled with his eight-birdie, three-bogey effort.
“Possibly one of best rounds of the year, solid tee to green and rolled the ball nicely,” he said.
“It was very gusty in places, the wind. You really had to know where you were hitting it. It’s kind of similar to back home in Australia – it’s just a fun course to play.”
Scot Paul Lawrie stood three under until going in the water at the last and double-bogeying, while playing partner Y E Yang – Asia’s only Major Champion in the men’s game – reached five under before also finding the lake and bogeying to be four under alongside Olazábal, China’s Zhang Lian-wei, Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.
World Number One and defending champion Rory McIlroy, who added The Race to Dubai title to his ever-growing trophy haul last week, could only manage a three over par 73.