Liang Wen-chong of China shot a 3-under 68 after the opening round of the China Masters on Thursday to grab a share of the lead alongside countryman Yuan Hao and Australian Steven Jones.
The trio outshined the big names at the tournament, with former British Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and Y.E. Yang of South Korea three shots back after shooting level par 71s at the Nanshan International Golf Club course.
Four players were one shot off the pace, Song Young-han and Wang Jueng-hun of South Korea and Aaron Townsend and Jamie Arnold of Australia.
Liang, looking for his fourth victory on the OneAsia tour, eagled the first and birdied the third on his way to a bogey-free round.
”I’m familiar with Nanshan as I have played here many times,” Liang said. ”The course is in very good condition, but really tests my game.”
Yuan, a lowly 100th on the OneAsia Order of Merit, kept pace with his countryman for much of the day. Starting slowly with a bogey on the second, Yuan hit his stride on the eighth when he started a run of five birdies in seven holes.
”It’s my first time to lead an OneAsia event, but I’m not nervous because in China everything is familiar,” he said.
Jones was also a surprise joint leader after the first day. The Australian has not made a cut on the One Asia tour all year but credited Thursday’s performance with his improved mental toughness.
”I have been playing better at home, so it’s nice to do it here as well,” Jones said. ”I was getting a lot of negative thoughts in my head so I have been working on that and I think it is starting to pay off.”
Oosthuizen started strongly with three birdies on the front nine but struggled on the back nine with no birdies and two bogeys. He admitted he may have been too aggressive and would play more conservatively Friday.
”I’ll just try to hit 18 greens and give myself 18 putts for birdie and hopefully one or two will go in,” he said. ”There are a lot of birdies out there, but that bogey is just lurking around the corner all the time.”
Six players will have to finish their round on Friday due to darkness, but only Xu Qin of China was in contention. He was shooting even par with two holes to play.