Tuesday, May 28, 2024

McKibbin seven off the early pace at Volvo China Open – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Romain Langasque and Sebastian Söderberg produced flawless opening rounds of 63 to share the lead at the Volvo China Open.

Tom McKibbin is seven shots off the pace on two-under after an opening 70. The 21-year-old started on the 10th and carded eight pars and a bogey on 14 before an impressive back nine.

The Holywood man carded back to back birdies on the 1st and 2nd before adding a third birdie on the 6th.

Frenchman Langasque missed the cut at the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP but had been in good form prior, finishing in a tie for fifth at the Hero Indian Open and 21st at the Porsche Singapore Classic in March.

His putter was hot at Hidden Grace Golf Club as he rolled in nine birdies, including a stunning run of seven in a row around the turn to sit at nine under par.

But he was joined by Swede Sebastian Söderberg following his own five-hole birdie stretch at the top of the leaderboard.

Home favourite Li Haotong, who won his event in 2016, was the closest challenger at eight under with a blemish-free 64.

Langasque said: “The last time I played here I finished in fifth place. I like this course and I like the way you have to plot your way round. I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t believe that I could shoot nine under par today so I’m delighted.

“It gives me confidence that I have played well on this golf course in the past and I felt comfortable out there today. I didn’t try too hard today and that approach paid off.”

Langasque was in the fourth group to go out on Thursday morning, starting on the back nine, and it did not take long for the 28-year-old to get in the red numbers.

He picked up a shot at the 11th before beginning his mammoth run of birdies from the 16th. He finished his front nine with a hat-trick of gains to reach four under and added further birdies at the first, second, third and fourth to hit the front.

A par at the fifth ended the seven-hole stretch of gains, but he picked up another shot at the sixth from ten feet to become the first player at nine under.

A brilliant save from the rough at the par-three eighth ensured his card remained spotless to set the clubhouse target.

Söderberg was a picture of consistency with his irons in Shenzhen and picked up his first shot of the day at the fourth. An incredible approach to three feet at the sixth then sparked a stirring streak of gains.

He dialled in to four feet at the seventh, six feet at the eighth and narrow slid by an eagle effort at the ninth to reach the turn in 31. The Swede hit his second shot at the tenth to concessional range once again for his fifth straight birdie to climb to six under.

Söderberg was out of position at the 13th, but a superb chip from the rough salvaged another birdie before hitting an approach to eight feet to move within one of the leader.

The 33-year-old drifted into the rough when trying to find the par-five 17th green in two and despite hitting his approach past the hole and on the fringe, he calmly rolled in his putt to climb to the summit.

Söderberg leads the Asian Swing Rankings, which concludes here at Hidden Grace Golf Club, and the winner will gain £200,000 in prize money, exemption for the Back 9 events of the DP World Tour campaign and the top three will gain a spot at the US PGA Championship.

“I guess it would be really nice,” the Swede said. “It is the first Swing I have been involved in and I’m not really that focused on putting tournaments together like that usually. But obviously it means spots into a Major, then you are paying extra attention to stuff like that.”

Li – also starting on the back nine – kickstarted his opening round with successive birdies at the 11th and 12th before adding another at the 17th.

The Chinese player continued his momentum by picking up shots at the second and fourth to climb to five under before he finished with a hat-trick of birdies to move to eight under par.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier and Czech Gordan Brixi were flawless in their rounds of 65, while Italy’s Guido Migliozzi carded eight birdies and a bogey for a share of fourth at seven under.

English pair Paul Waring and Marcus Armitage, South African duo Casey Jarvis and Zander Lombard, France’s Clément Sordet, Italian Filippo Celli, Swiss Joel Girrbach and India’s Shubhankar Sharma sit one shot further adrift.

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