Brandon Stone got to five-under-par with one hole to play in his opening round at the Shenzhen International, which was hampered by bad weather on Thursday.
The current SA Open champ moved into contention with an outward nine of 33 at Genzon Golf Club, and made a further two birdies on the home stretch to move within a stroke of early leaders Alexander Levy and Soomin Lee. He’ll have an early start on Friday to complete his final hole.
Heavy rain forced suspensions in play twice during the opening round, before darkness led to the overnight stoppage of the first 18 holes.
In the space of six months Stone has gone from promising youngster to title challenger, beginning with his victory at the Cape Town Open in November.
At the start of the year he took on Glendower Golf Club for his national open and was rewarded with a two-shot victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout after finishing the week on 14-under-par.
Since that triumph he has made four cuts in six starts, highlighted by a share of 10th place at the Tshwane Open. He also shared 26th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Stone ranks 35th in the Race to Dubai and has a good chance to rise higher this week after starting the $2,8-million tournament so well.
Also in with a shout was Darren FIchardt, who shot 70 early in the day. The four-time European Tour winner last picked up a trophy in 2013 and will be itching to get back into the winners’ circle.