European Tour Release, 22 November 2018: Arjun Atwal turned the clock back with a spectacular 66 in the opening round of the Hong Kong Open. With a dozen Indians in the field, only five of them managed to stay par or better at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. Khalin Joshi shot 68 to end the day at T9, Shubhankar Sharma made 69 for T23 while Ajeetesh Sandhu and SSP Chawrasia stayed even in T41.
Aaron Rai, Jason Scrivener and Yusaku Miyazato led the way when the first round of the Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi reached its conclusion after benefiting from favourable afternoon conditions on Thursday.
After India’s Arjun Atwal had set the early clubhouse target with a flawless 66 on a cool and windy morning in Fanling, calmer weather opened the door for later starters Rai, Scrivener and Miyazato to produce opening 65s and move to the top of the leaderboard.
Three-time European Tour winner Atwal, Challenge Tour graduate Jack Singh Brar and American Micah Lauren Shin were the co-leaders’ nearest challengers on four under after they all carded four birdies and no bogeys in their opening rounds.Rai began his round with a birdie at the first but had to wait until the 12th to pick up his second shot after a string of pars.
He was rewarded for his patience with an eagle at the 13th, sending a stunning approach to within a few inches of the cup before tapping in to join Atwal on four under.
Rai knocked in his 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th to grab the outright lead.
The 23 year old had a good chance to extend his advantage at the 18th but his curling birdie putt pulled up short, and he was soon caught by Australian Scrivener, who notched a single birdie on his front nine before picking up four shots in five holes from the 12th to get to five under.
Japan’s Miyazato, meanwhile, started from the 11th tee and carded birdies at the 13th and 15th and first before making further gains on the fourth and seventh to join Rai and Scrivener at the summit.
He dropped his first shot of the day at the difficult ninth but recovered with a closing birdie to return to five under.
Rai was pleased with his bogey-free start to the tournament. He said: “It was good. I think we were lucky with the weather today.
“When we got here this morning it was kind of blowy so the guys this morning had it harder than we did but nonetheless it’s a tough course.
“I think anything under par was a good score and I was very pleased with a 65 to start off.”
Scrivener was happy to see his patience pay off. He said: “It was a nice round. I just kind of plodded my way around nicely and picked up a few birdies towards the end of the round.
“The front nine is quite tricky and you’ve got to kind of be patient and wait for your opportunities, and I did that quite well today.”
Miyazato was delighted to close his round with a birdie to return to the top of the pile.
He said: “Today I was putting well and my iron shots were good.
“It was getting dark and I couldn’t really see that well, so I just played with my gut feeling and was able to birdie the last hole which was nice.”
South Africa’s Thomas Aiken and Thailand’s Danthai Boonma were in a tie for seventh on three under.
The day had begun with Challenge Tour winner Joachim B Hansen playing the opening tee-shot of the 2019 Race to Dubai season.