HONG KONG (AP) — Mark Brown made a late charge to top the first-round leader board Thursday at the Hong Kong Open, shooting an 8-under par 62 for a one-stroke lead.
The New Zealander surged late at the Fanling course to overtake two-time runner-up Rory McIlroy, the early leader after capitalizing on calm conditions in the morning. McIlroy finished second in Hong Kong each of the past two years.
McIlroy was joined in second place by India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, with Englishman Simon Dyson and Denmark’s Soren Hansen in a tie for fourth. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was a shot further back with five others in a tie for sixth at 5-under.
“Kind of a bit of a surprise after my form over the last two months, but a good surprise,” Brown said after a bogey-free round that included eight birdies. “It’s the sort of course that gives you a lot of chances as long as you hit it in the fairway. I just tried to get the ball in play. Don’t hit a lot of drivers, which probably suits me the way I’ve been hitting my driver lately.”
McIlroy also racked up eight birdies during his round but dropped a shot at the par-4 sixth – his 15th hole of the day after starting at No. 9. He’s in prime position to earn his first European Tour win of the season.
“The conditions are perfect for scoring,” the 21-year-old Northern Irishman said. “There wasn’t any wind and when the greens are that good in the morning you can take advantage of it and that is what I was able to do today.”
McIlroy said “you always feel you can do better,” pointing to a misread chip on the third hole and a shot into the trees on 6.
On a day of low scoring in the joint European and Asian Tour event, 80 players went below par. It was Dyson who claimed clubhouse bragging rights after a hole in one at the par-3 11th en route to a 64 that left him tied for fourth.
The previous hole, he had chipped in from off the green.
“That was a nice start and then it got even better at the next,” Dyson said. “Perfect yardage, no wind, perfect wedge, straight down the flag, pitched it to about a foot short and just rolled out and dropped in the hole. Couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Ian Poulter shot a 67, leaving him five shots off the lead, while major winners YE Yang and John Daly had a 68 and 69, respectively. Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez was among the few to go over par, with a triple-bogey 7 on the 18th to finish with a 72.