Korean Cho Leads While Zhang Trails by two at St.Andrews Henan Open
Bejing, June 8: Korea’s Rak Hyun Cho signed for an opening seven-under-par 65 to lead by two shots over Zhang Huilin of China and Matthew Perry of New Zealand at the St. Andrews Henan Open on Thursday.
Cho, who lost to Zhang at the Buick Open after battling tooth and nail for the title last season, continued his battle with Zhang into this new season.
“I am most pleased with my iron-play today,” said Zhang, who marked his card with six birdies against one bogey to grab a share of second place at the St. Andrew Golf Club’s Zhengzhou course. “The conditions of the greens are very good today. I was able to hit it to within two to three yards from the pin.”
Zhang hit a total of 16 greens in regulation in his opening round and his longest birdie putt was from 10 yards today. “I was able to hit it close and my putting was good. I had seven one-putts today which was good but unfortunately missed two putts from within two yards. The result could have been better,” added Zhang.
Zhang dropped his only bogey of the day on hole 17. “I played pretty well today but I kind of got too aggressive towards the end. I ended up hitting an errant tee shot on the right on 17. I needed three shots to get it on the green. Overall, I am happy with how I played today. I hope to continue my good form for the rest of the week.”
Cho missed out on the Buick Open title to Zhang by one shot last season but he is now leading by two shots over Zhang at the season opener. Cho traded eight birdies against one bogey to sit atop the leaderboard. If not for the one bogey which he incurred after hitting the ball into the water hazard, his score would have been better. “I started the round with three birdies. That gave me a lot of confidence . The ball is rolling slower on the greens today due to the rain, so I tend to hit it harder to the greens. I am very happy with my result today,” said the Korean.
Cho lamented his poor tee shots and iron-play but credited his hot putter for the solid start to his campaign. “I hit only nine fairways today and I didn’t hit a lot of greens as well. But I putted really well to capture a few birdies out there.”
Cho marked his card with three straight birdies on each nine but he claimed that the birdie on 15th was the highlight of his round. “I hit it short of the green on that hole. Although I think I was a bit lucky over there, I am still very thrilled to sink that long putt from 30 feet for birdie.
Cho is playing in his fourth season on the China Tour and chasing for his first victory on the burgeoning Tour. “I came close a few times. Hopefully this week will be my week. The Order of Merit champion for this season earns a card on the European Tour next year. My friend Jeunghun Wang, who played on the China Tour before is also playing on the European Tour now. I hope I can follow his footsteps. My main focus will be on the China Tour this season.”
Apart from Cho and Zhang, another player also grabbed a share of the limelight with his solid performance today. This player is Matthew Perry of New Zealand. He is also playing in his fourth season on the China Tour.
In 2014, he missed his opportunity at the Beijing Open after losing to Zhang Xin jun and he settled for second place at the Chongqing Jiangnan Newtown Kingrun Open last year. Perry came into the brand new season full of aspirations. He said with excitement: “I love to play in China. The golf courses are pretty challenging here but it is a good training ground for all the players.”
Perry returned with a bogey-free round highlighted by five birdies. “It was raining a little bit when I started out in the morning. But this is not an issue for me. It’s always raining back at home in New Zealand too so I am very used to playing in the rain.”
Although it didn’t seem to be the best conditions out there in the morning, Perry was impressive, missing only one green. “I made a small mistake on the 10 but I am happy I still managed to save for bogey. My driver was alright today. I missed like three to four fairways. I avoided making big mistakes. I guess that’s why I am able to shoot a low score.”
Perry, chasing for a victory this week, said: “This is my fourth year playing in China. The Tour has grown from strength to strength over the years. With the Merit champion getting a spot on the European Tour this year, it just motivates all the players to play well out there. That would definitely be my aim for this year and I will keep working towards that.”
2015 Order of Merit champion Bryden Macpherson aced the fourth hole with a six-iron today, recording the first hole-in-one in the new season, as well as a record 30th hole-in-one on the China Tour, which was inaugurated in 2014.