Rookie Han leads China Open with Garcia two back, Harrington seven

By PA Sport and Associated Press
Published on

South Korea’s Han Chang-won racked up six birdies on the front nine Thursday to take the first-round clubhouse lead by a stroke in the European Tour’s Volvo China Open. Han shot an 8-under 64 at Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwestern China.

One stroke behind were Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, England’s James Morrison, Welshman Bradley Dredge and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen.

Heavy mist in the morning led to an hour’s delay in play, and 24 players will have to complete the round early Saturday, including South Africa’s Keith Horne at 7 under with four holes to go.

New Zealand’s Steven Alker, South Korea’s Choi Jin-ho and Spain’s Sergio Garcia followed with bogey-free 66s.

Also at 6 under were Jeev Milka Singh of India, Joost Luiten of the Netherlands, Richie Ramsay of Scotland, Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden, Gregory Havret of France, and Danny Lee of New Zealand.

Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington opened and closed with birdies but two bogeys left him with 71.

Defending champion Y.E. Yang had five birdies against one bogey to finish at 68.

China’s highest-ranked golfer, Liang Wenchong, also carded 68 with six birdies and two bogeys.

Rookie Han admits his stellar start has him dreaming of a payday to boost his flagging bank balance.

"I've been playing golf for nine years. I've only been professional from this year. I play for the national team,” he explained. "I've not made much money yet as a professional, so it would be nice to get some this week!"

The 19-year-old South Korean started brightly on the 10th with two birdies and picked up further shots on the first and fourth. He then picked things up in style with four successive birdies down the stretch to go home in 30 and leap up the leaderboard.

"It's very good weather and I got a bit lucky today," he admitted. "I missed a few easy shots but most of the time I was perfect and hit the fairways and got close to the pins. I felt comfortable going into those last four holes, which I birdied. I didn't really feel any pressure and it was a good finish.

Among those a shot further back are England's James Morrison, Ulsterman Gareth Maybin, Wales' Bradley Dredge and Dane Soren Kjeldsen. Keith Horne of South Africa was also seven under but with four to play after bad light prevented him finishing.

Morrison is gunning for a second win on the European Tour and said: "My strengths are driving it straight, short irons and chipping and putting which is this golf course all over. So before I even got here and playing Tuesday morning, I thought I like this place but it's hard not to get ahead of yourself."

Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell was three off the lead following a 5-under 67. The New Zealander, who has struggled in the last two years with injury, has put a run together recently having previously made only four cuts in two years.

"Every week seems to be getting better for me,” said Campbell, who finished 35th in the Maybank Malaysian Open. "I didn't finish it off last week in Malaysia but today I played great from tee to green and putted better.

"I missed a few short ones coming in but beside that it was a real solid first round. It's a snowball effect. I'm growing in confidence with each shot, each putt, each chip,” he added. "You ask any athlete -- confidence is not something you can buy from the corner store. You have to earn it."

Westwood trails by two in Indonesia in quest to regain No. 1 ranking

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Lee Westwood trailed Indonesian Masters leader Siddikur of Bangladesh by two strokes after the first round on Thursday. Westwood birdied his last two holes of the Asian Tour event to post a 4-under 68 at Royale Jakarta Golf Club.

He has a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking if he wins this week and fellow Englishman Luke Donald fails to capture the Heritage title on the PGA Tour. Westwood said he was just hoping to celebrate his 38th birthday on Sunday with a 34th victory worldwide.

Siddikur, who goes by one name and is the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour, shot 66, including two chip-ins for birdies.

A group of six players – Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng, Singapore's Lam Chih Bing, Filipino Antonio Lascuna and Koreans Park Hyun-bin and Hwang In-choon – was a stroke behind the leader. Westwood then heads five players two shots back, tied with Rory Hie, Ben Leong, Darren Beck and Mo Joong-kyung.

"I was hitting and putting very well and it has been like this for a few weeks now," said Siddikur. "I'm getting more confidence every week and that's why I've been playing so well."

Being paired with Westwood, however, means Siddikur has a constant reminder of his main challenge.

"I saw the draw yesterday and was feeling a bit excited playing with one of the best players in the world," he said. "I have to admit I felt a bit shaky this morning playing with Westwood."

Westwood had been struggling with his putting but closed with a pair of birdies.

"I played solidly but I was a bit frustrated out there," he said. "It has been the story for me so far, hitting it great from tee to green and giving myself a lot of chances but not taking it."

However, he insisted the ranking was not on his mind.

"I'll let things take their course and see what happens at the end of the week," he said. "Like I said before, I'm here to win a golf tournament."

Thongchai might have been the man in the lead had he not followed an impressive eagle with a double bogey after the turn.

"I was distracted by a camera and lost concentration from there on,” he said. “I missed a lot of good putts on the back nine but made birdie on the last to put myself near the leader," he said.