CHENGDU, China (AFP) ― Teenager Han Chang-won reinforced his growing reputation as one of the most exciting prospects in Asia by taking the clubhouse lead Thursday on the opening day of the $3-million Volvo China Open.
The 19-year-old South Korean, who only recently made his professional debut, fired an eight-under-par 64 which included birdies on the last four holes at Luxehills International Country Club, in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
In second place are a clutch of players including Gareth Maybin from Northern Ireland and Englishman James Morrison, who carded 65s in the second event of the season on OneAsia which is being joint sanctioned with the European Tour.
South African Keith Horne was one of 24 players unable to finish as darkness fell. He was seven under for his round with four holes to play.
Off-form three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington carded a disappointing 71.
Han claimed the 2009 Asian Amateur Championship and won the OneAsia Qualifying School in January by six strokes to earn full playing rights for the 2011 season.
“It’s very good weather and I got a bit lucky today,” he said.
“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.”
Han made his professional tournament debut at Indonesia PGA Championship, the season-opening event on OneAsia, where he finished in tied for 17th place.
Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, who won this event in 2006, and Sergio Garcia from Spain joined a group of nine players on 66.
Yang Yong-eun from Korea, the 2009 U.S. PGA Championship winner who is bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the Volvo China Open, returned a 68.
“I’m satisfied with today’s start,” said Yang, the first Asian to win a Major.
“Overall it was good but on the 12th hole I missed a short putt. I missed a few makeable birdies today so I could have gone lower but you can’t have it all.”
Australian Andre Stolz, the winner in Indonesia, also came in with a 68.
Volvo China Open scores:
64 Han Chang-won
65 Gareth Maybin, James Morrison, Soren Kjeldsen, Bradley Dredge
66 Choi Jin-ho, Sergio Garcia, Jeev Milkha Singh, Steven Alker, Joost Luiten, Fredrik Andersson Hed, Richie Ramsay, Gregory Havret , Danny Lee
67 Michael Campbell, John Parry, Ross McGowan, Robert Jan Derksen, Michael Jonzon, Anthony Brown, Jeppe Huldahl