Reigning champion Lin Wen Tang made a blistering start to the defence of his trophy on the first day of the UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday (November 12).
The Chinese Taipei star carded a bogey-free six-under-par 64 to lie one shot off the lead after morning play at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
Robert-Jan Derksen of Holland led the tournament after returning a seven-under 63.
Lin was tied for second place with Frenchman Grégory Bourdy and England’s David Dixon.
Starting from the 10th hole, Lin opened with two straight birdies and added a third at the par-four 17th to reach the turn at three-under.
He picked up two more shots at the fourth and six and capped a fine day’s work with a birdie at the par-four ninth.
“I’m very pleased with how I played today, especially with my opening two birdies that got my round underway,” said Lin. “That gave me the confidence to go on and play well.
“My swings and putts were almost perfect and I’m hoping it stays this way for the rest of the week.”
Lin, who won last year’s UBS Hong Kong Open after a thrilling playoff duel with Rory McIlroy, is bidding to become the first player since compatriot Hsieh Yung Yo in 1963-64 to win back to back titles at Fanling.
“I’d be lying if I said that there’s no pressure,” he admitted. “We’re professional sportsmen and we all play to win. I said before that if you don’t win, a second place or last place finish will not make any difference.
“I hope to maintain my form, play well over the next three rounds and most importantly stay focused for the challenges ahead.”
Lin’s round was even more impressive given that he was battling a cold.
“I’ve got some sinus trouble this morning and I’m feeling a little under the weather. Maybe that’s why I missed several putts today,” he said.
“I’ll just go back to my hotel room, make myself a warm drink, get some rest and hopefully, I’ll get better tomorrow.”
Derksen was delighted with his opening round. “That was very good, I enjoyed that,” he said.
“I didn’t hit many bad shots at all, just one three putt on the 16th. I hit the first putt into the grain far too soft and had a four footer left but missed it. Other than that, I hit all the greens and fairways and gave myself plenty of chances.
“The three putt on 16 was the only blemish but I came back with birdies on the 17th and 18th so that gave me a nice feeling about today.”
England’s Lee Westwood and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, locked in a battle for the European Tour’s Race To Dubai title, both made good starts with matching 66s.
The UBS Hong Kong Open is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.