Baldwin,Cho and Lawson share opening honors at fragrant hills international Beijing Open


Beijing, June 22: Mark Baldwin of the United States reveled under testing conditions by returning with a six-under-par 65 to share the first round lead with Korea’s Cho Rak Hyun and Australian Deyen Lawson at the Fragrant Hills International Beijing Open on Thursday.

Australia’s Maxwell Mccardle, who had earlier taken the morning clubhouse lead with his 66, was tied for fourth alongside Korea’s Daihan Lee, American Ryann Ree and Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chienyao at the ¥1.35 million, which is the second stop on the China Tour.

Bracing himself for a tough week, Baldwin’s psyched himself up for the mental challenge ahead.

“I was actually hoping for really bad weather. I was looking at the forecast the last couple of days and I knew the weather is going to be very difficult.

“So for the last two days, I’ve been telling myself I love to play in bad weather. The worse the weather, the happier I was going to be today,” said Baldwin.

Play was suspended for 30 minutes due to the heavy rains in the afternoon and when it resumed at 2.30pm, Baldwin continued his charge strongly and finished convincingly with an eagle on the 18th hole.

“For the first 13 holes, I was really happy as it rained and it was wet, I was soaked and cold. I got back out there when the rain stopped and it was very peaceful. By that time, I found a nice rhythm and tempo and was able to keep going until the very end where I made an eagle

“I hit a perfect drive to 150 yards from the pin and hit a perfect shot to six inches which almost went in. Then I gave my golf ball to a little girl who clapped for me. I’m very happy I managed to finish on a very high note, going into tomorrow’s round,” said Bladwin.

With heavy rains pelting down on the Fragrant Hills International Club, Lawson also survived the cold and wet conditions by returning with almost flawless card which was marred by a bogey at his closing hole on the par-five nine.

“I was trying to keep my ball in play on day and it was almost like trying to play par golf. But I was lucky enough to roll a few putts in as it was tough out there. Apart from the bogey on the last, I’m overall happy with how I’ve played.

“You just got to find a way to keep the ball in play under weather conditions like this. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow. It’s a good start. There’s three more days and we’ll see how it goes,” said Lawson.

Mccardle, who has been playing on the China Tour for the last two years, also braved the heavy rain by trading six birdies against one bogey at the Fragrant Hills International Golf Club.

“It was pretty wet this morning and it was important to keep the ball on the fairways and greens to get the putts in. The course seems to be playing a lot longer today especially with the rain and I needed to use more drivers.

“The air was thicker and the ball wasn’t going as far as I wanted it to be. I had to control the game as good as I can. Overall it was a good round and I had a nice score,” said Mccardle.

Mccardle has enjoyed four top-10s on the China Tour last year. He missed the cut at the season opener event in Henan a fortnight ago but was pleased to rediscover his good form.

“I’ve been playing regularly in China for two years already. My goal is to play as much golf as I can and win tournaments. The courses are great in China. But you still got to play good golf here,” said the Australian.

Mccardle is however cautious about the rising standards of golf among the younger generation of players in China as he seeks his breakthrough on the China Tour.

“The young Chinese players are getting better along with the standard of golf in China. It’s a good and strong field as all the young guys are getting better. You know who to look out for,” said Mccardle.

China’s Chen Dinggen and Li Tao were the highest placed Chinese when they returned with matching 67s to share eighth place.

Playing at the Fragrant Hills International Golf Club for the first time, Chen was pleasantly surprised with his score.

“The greens were slower today because of the rain and that was a challenge. But as I progressed through the round, I managed to find my rhythm which helped.

“I’m playing on this golf course for the first time and I’m pleased with my efforts considering the wet conditions that I was playing under too,” said Chen.

The 37-year-old has set himself a target of securing his maiden title on the China Tour this week and is determined to ride on his good form from the opening day.

“I’ve been practicing hard and the key when it comes to doing well for all four rounds is to stay patient and focused.

“I’m playing to win. If I don’t have that goal, I might as well stay at home,” said Chen.

Li, a teaching pro from Xi’an, meanwhile believes adopting a patient approach will be key for him.

“I’ll do my best. I haven’t set any objectives for myself. I just do my best and play one shot at a time,” said Li.

The Chinese got off to a fast start with five birdies for an outward 31. He dropped three shots after the turn but recovered well with two birdies on 13 and 18.

“I was putted really well today. The first birdie on the opening hole gave me a lot of confidence and I went on to get four more birdies in my front-nine.

“However, I lost my focus and got impatient after the turn but managed to recover with two birdies on 13 and 18 which helped a lot,” said Li.

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