Colomo upstages McIlroy

European Tour

Javi Colomo outshone all the illustrious names on the opening day of the Hong Kong Open by firing a flawless six-under-par 64.

Asian Tour rookie Javi Colomo of Spain outshone all the illustrious names on the opening day of the UBS Hong Kong Open by firing a flawless six-under-par 64 to take the first round clubhouse lead on Thursday.

Compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is twenty years older than Colomo, showed that old is gold when he rolled back the years to take a share of second place with Australia’s Andrew Dodt with an opening 65.

Trailing a further shot back is China’s most decorated player, Zhang Lian-wei who could have returned with a lower score had he not carded a double-bogey six on his finishing par-four 10th.

The 47-year-old veteran signed for a 66 to take equal fourth place alongside Asian Tour honorary member Y.E. Yang of Korea, Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal of Spain, Italy’s Gagli Lorenzo and Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed at the Hong Kong Golf Club.

Colomo, who has enjoyed three top-10 finishes on the Asian Tour this season, opened his campaign with pars on his first eight holes.

The 28-year-old’s round came alive when he blazed the course with six birdies in eight holes in his homeward run.

“I was very relaxed after the first nine holes, and after that, I took all my birdie opportunities. It helped that I had luck on my side on the greens as well,” said Colomo.

“I’m playing really well, because this is my first season here. The first six months, it was very hard for me and for my wife, but now we are more comfortable and happy. It’s perfect,” he added.

Having won the Hong Kong Open in 2004 and 2007, Jimenez is bidding for a hat-trick of victories this week.

The cigar-chomping Spaniard was poised to extend his advantage at the top before two closing bogeys set him back.

“I played very solid all day long from tee to green. I’m putting very well. It was a pity that I missed a fairway on the ninth hole and then I had to lay up and I missed a three metre putt,” said Jimenez.

“Then on the last hole, I got a big flyer, and that is the defence of the golf course, when you miss the fairway and go into the rough. I made a bogey there again which is not very nice,” added the 48-year-old.

Highly regarded as a role model and big brother to the younger generations of golfers from China, Zhang showed that he can still lead the way after another commanding performance where he carded six birdies against a double-bogey.

With world number one Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and ltaly’s Matteo Manassero among the elite field this week, Zhang remains bullish about his chances of getting the better over the Major champions as well as his younger rivals who are almost half his age.

“I’ve the local knowledge here with all of my years of experience and they will be advantageous to me this week,” said Zhang.

Yang, who enjoyed a top-10 finish in Singapore last week, continued to ride on his good form, by mixing five birdies against a lone bogey on the 18th to stay in touch with the leaders.

“Apart from the 18th, I’m satisfied with the way I played today. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the leaderboard after the first round so that’s definitely a plus. Hopefully I can build upon that,” said the Asian Tour honorary member.

World number one McIlory has left himself with a fair amount of work to do as he began his defence with a disappointing 73.

The Northern Irishman got off to a poor start, bogeying the first and picked up his only birdie of the day at the third. Further bogeys at the 6th, 14th and 15th left McIlroy floundering.

“I probably just lacked a bit of energy out there, I felt a bit lethargic – mentally, more than physically, if I am being honest,” said the 23-year-old.

“I started off OK and just got more and more frustrated as the round went on. I just felt like I was hitting some decent shots and just not really converting any chances for birdies and I just let it get to me a little bit,.”

The opening round had to be suspended due to darkness with three players from the last group yet to complete their round. They will resume play on Friday, 8am.

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