HONG KONG (AP) — K.J. Choi was hoping to roll back the clock on the opening day of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday, firing an 8-under-par 62 at the Fanling Golf Club.
Six-time PGA Tour winner Choi missed out on the top place in 2005, when he finished one stroke behind winner Colin Montgomerie. This time he leads the pack after the opening round, emerging one shot ahead of Garry Houston after the Welshman finished with a bogey on his last hole.
Swedish pair Fredrik Andersson Hed and Robert Karlsson had a share of third place at 6-under, with Scotland’s Barry Hume, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and South Korea’s Kang Wook-soon a shot further back at 5-under at the $2.25 million tournament.
Choi, a two-time winner this season on the PGA Tour, had nine birdies — including five in a row from the 12th to the 16th — and a single bogey as he took advantage of the almost perfect weather at Fanling.
“I started getting my rhythm on the 10th hole which required an accurate drive,” Choi said. “I parred the 11th and then I had a good birdie on the 12th hole and I felt like I was getting back to rhythm again.
“It’s the first time I’ve shot a 62 here, so I’m very happy. I expected the greens to be softer so that helped as well.”
Choi said the greens in Hong Kong were very similar to what he had been practicing on in Houston, so he felt at home on the course.
“A lot of players had a tough time reading the greens, but I was quite comfortable out there and my putting was solid throughout.” he said.
Kang, the 1998 champion and last Asian player to win the Hong Kong Open, also said his game was suited to the conditions.
“A lot depends on your putting and my putting today was spot on,” he said. “I holed almost anything within 11 yards so, overall, I’m very pleased with my round.”
Trailing behind was a stellar field including 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir, two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen and defending champion Jose Manuel Lara, all at 1-under. Stuart Appelby of Australia and South Africa’s Trevor Immelman were at 1-over after opening rounds of 71.
This year’s Hong Kong Open is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, and includes nine of Asia’s top 10 players.