Unheralded Udorn Duangdecha upstaged the world class field gathered at the UBS Hong Kong Open to take the first round lead on Thursday (12 November).
The Thai veteran – with only one top-10 finish in his Asian Tour career – returned a brilliant eight-under-par 62 at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
That gave him a one-shot lead over Holland’s Robert-Jan Derksen in the US2.5 million European and Asian Tour co-sanctioned showpiece.
Udorn, aged 39, came within a whisker of equalling the course record of 61 – set by Scotland’s Simon Yates in 2005 – but bogeyed his final hole, the ninth.
“I played according to my game plan and was really pleased that everything went the way I hoped it would,” he said.
“It might surprise everyone out there but I don’t think it surprised me too much. After all, I’ve been in this position before and, like I said, I played according to my strategy and it worked out well.
“It was a pity that I bogeyed the last as I really couldn’t see the hole from where I was. I three-putted as it was getting dark. But I’ll get to tee off in the morning tomorrow, so it’ll be better.”
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.”
UBS Hong Kong Open reigning champion Lin Wen Tang made an excellent start to the defence of his trophy with a bogey-free 64 to lie two shots off the pace.
Lin was tied for third place with Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, England’s David Dixon and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.
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 sixth 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 and I’m feeling a little under the weather. Maybe that’s why I missed several putts today.
“I’ll just go back to my hotel room, make myself a warm drink, get some rest and hopefully, I’ll get better tomorrow.”
Former British Open champion Ben Curtis of the US and South African star Rory Sabbatini were among nine players on five-under.
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 four-under 66s.
Also on four-under were two of the tournament’s drawcards, recent PGA Championship winner Yang Yong Eun of Korea and American Mark O’Meara, the former British Open and Masters champion.
World No.13 Ian Poulter of England – winner of the Singapore Open two weeks ago – carded a two-under 68.
The UBS Hong Kong Open is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.