Unheralded Amandeep Johl shot a six-under-par 63 today to take the first round lead in the US$700,000 Omega Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
The Indian holds a one stroke lead over Welshman Stephen Dodd, Sweden's Henrik Nystrom, Tony Johnstone from Zimbabwe, and Mexico's Pablo Del Olmo.
Defending champion Jose Maria Olazabal from Spain carded a 69 while England's Nick Faldo shot 68, in the event which is being joint-sanctioned by the Davidoff Tour and the European Tour.
Johl has not won on the Davidoff Tour before and has a best finish of third place. Said Johl: "My round was very patchy. I played good in the middle, from the ninth to the 15th. Before the ninth I was scrambling around making pars. My putting was absolutely fantastic today." The Indian fired an eagle, six birdies and two bogies.
"I have been working on my putting. I have been reading this book by Bob Rotella so that has really helped. Today, I tried hard to keep out of my way. I had a few long putts," added Johl. The pressure of leading such a big tournament is not something that Johl is used to, particularly when the television cameras are rolling. "I battled hard as I am not used to the television guys running around. It's so easy to lose your concentration. I am not used to it and suddenly these guys start moving all over the place," said Johl, whose wife Hardavin is caddying for him.
Former European Tour winner Johnstone is coming off the worst season of his career but after finishing in the top-20 last week in Taiwan he is looking to turn things around. "It was a nice start. I hit some iron shots close. The course is not suited for me as the fairways are a bit too wide for a medium length accurate hitter. I was hitting the irons really close and putted really close," said Johnstone, who has won five times on the European Tour.
"I have had the worse year of my career this year. I have had an absolutely horrendous year. All sorts of things went wrong with my brother passing away. Just when I started to get back into things I got a virus," added the Zimbabwean. It is neck and neck in the race for the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit with Merit list leader Jyoti Randhawa of India and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, last year's winner, both shooting 67s in the first round.
Thirteen-year-old Taiwanese Lo Shih-kai, the youngest player to play in a European Tour event, shot a 73. Lo, who was given a spot in the tournament after winning the Hong Kong Amateur Open thanks to a last round 66, played steady golf apart from a triple bogey at his third hole, when he went out of bounds and a double bogey at his 10th hole, where he three putted. The youngster also had two birdies. "I did not play well today," said Lo, who will be 14 next February. "I was a bit nervous and could not execute the shots the way I wanted to. I hope that I can go on and make the cut." Lo's first round was better than his first professional appearance at the Asian PGA's Taiwan Open earlier this year when he shot 84-82.
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