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3 December 2003

Masterful MCEvoy leads OMEGA Hong Kong Open


England's Richard McEvoy made a sensational start to his first full season on he European Tour when he took the first round lead in the US$700,000 Omega Hong Kong Open today.

McEvoy, who won Europe's Qualifying School last month, fired an eight-under-par 62 at The Hong Kong Golf Club. The joint-sanctioned tournament is the opening event of The European Tour's 2003/2004 seasons, and the penultimate leg of this year's Asian PGA Tour.

The 24-year-old leads by four from Scotland's Steven O'Hara, who was in the same Great Britain and reland team that won the Walker Cup in 2001, and Amandeep Johl from India.

China's Zhang Lian-wei and Irishman Padraig Harrington returned 67s.

"To start off like that in my debut year is just amazing," said McEvoy, who finished 19th on the Challenge Tour in Europe this year.

McEvoy made the turn in four-under-par 30, with birdies on two, four, eight and nine. He birdied 10 and 12, dropped a shot on the 13th but ran away with the lead with birdies on 14, 15 and 18. He narrowly issued a birdie putt from 10 feet on 17 but drained a 15 footer for birdie on the difficult par four final hole.

"It was putting today. I putted great and played very solid all day. I got off to a poor start, playing the first very poorly. I got up and down from about 50 yards and that got me going," said McEvoy, who turned professional

in 2001.

O'Hara also made it through the Qualifying School, in 13th place, and played with McEvoy in the final round.

"I still have a bit of momentum from the Qualifying School as I played pretty well there. It was good for the confidence and I took last week off and feel well rested coming into this week. I'm delighted with my start,"

said O'Hara.

"We know each other well. We practised a lot together on the Challenge Tour. It will be good for both of us to play well here," added the Scot.

Johl was in sole possession of second place until dropping a shot on the last.

"I am quite happy with my round. I got a couple of good breaks and made some stupid bogeys - that is part of the game I suppose," said Johl.

Zhang, paired with England's Nick Faldo, made a good start to what is the 45th staging of Hong Kong's national Open. The Chinese star, winner of last month's Volvo China Open, is presently second on the Asian PGA Tour Order of Merit list behind Arjun Atwal. He trails the Indian by US$36,624 but could move to top spot this week with a good result. Atwal is competing at the US PGA Tour Qualifying School this week but will return to Asia next week for the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok.

"I have played with Nick (Faldo) previously, so I was completely relaxed out there. There were quite a few spectators following our group and it was nice that the Hong Kong folks were supporting me," said Zhang.

Defending champion Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden carded a 68, along with the 2001 winner Jose Maria Olazabal from Spain and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke. Faldo and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn came in with a 69.

The longest drive competition, which takes place at Hole 11 during the OMEGA Hong Kong Open, is led by Daniel Gaunt from Australia, Warren Bennett from England and David Dixon. Daniel hit a 351-yard, while the other two hit 348 yard and 346 yard respectively. The competition will continue tomorrow through Round 4.

Meanwhile, Fredrik Jacobson, Nick Faldo and Jean Van de Velde from France attended this year OMEGA Junior Golf Day, which takes place at the Eden Course Hole no.3. Junior golfers from the OMEGA-sponsored Hong Kong Golf Association Junior program attend and learnt much from the very humorous star players.