Cameron Smith fired a seven-under-par 63 to grab a share of the lead after the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Australian and headline act at the $2-million Asian Tour International Series event topped the leaderboard along with Spain’s Eugenio Chacarra.
In hot, overcast and sometimes blustery conditions on the composite course at Fanling, the 2022 Open champion Smith carded eight birdies against one bogey.
Smith, one of the biggest names to jump ship to the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, made birdies in five of his last seven holes but felt that his round could have gone even better.
However, he was content overall and said “it was all really solid stuff”.
“I missed one or two shorter putts, but these greens are so tricky here,” said the mullet-haired Australian, who is chasing a first victory in the southern Chinese city. “Other than that, it’s such a cool track, it’s so traditional. You have to think around here. I love it.”
Smith and the 23-year-old Chacarra were a shot ahead of Jang Yu-bin of South Korea and Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul at the 62nd edition of Asia’s oldest professional golf tournament.
The American Andy Ogletree, who leads the International Series Order of Merit, was prime among a chasing pack two shots off the lead.
Major winners Patrick Reed and Graeme McDowell shot matching 67s and a share of 21st place.
American Talor Gooch, who won three LIV events and this year’s lucrative points title, carded 68.
The Australian Wade Ormsby, who was victorious when the tournament was last played, in 2020, failed to fire with a first-round 70.
The Hong Kong Open is back for the first time in three years following an enforced break because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
© Agence France-Presse