Scott Hend of Australia battled to a one-under-par 69 after struggling with his swing in the opening round of the UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday.
Hend, who won the Hong Kong showpiece in 2014, traded four birdies against three bogeys to take a share of 31stplace, five shots back of the leader Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
The Australian is in prime position to clinch the Asian Tour Order of Merit for the first time in his career as his closest challenger Marcus Fraser, who needs a victory to stand a chance to win the Merit trophy, posted a disappointing 71.
“It was a bit of a struggle out there. My Swing wasn’t really in the slot. But we know this golf course well enough that we just tried to manage what was going on. We’ll see if we can improve tomorrow in the morning when we should get pure putting surfaces and hopefully no wind and go forward tomorrow,” said Hend.
“I just got tricked up out there. Made a few bogeys. It’s a tough, tough part of the golf course. I didn’t hit the appropriate shots and I got punished for it. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I played quite solid but just didn’t get the ball in the hole enough,” he added.
The nine-time Asian Tour winner said he is running on fumes after a busy 2016 season where he won twice in Thailand and represented his country in the Olympic Golf.
“I’m really tired. I need the time off. I need to get back in the gym and I need to get ready for next season. It’s been a really long year but it’s been a great year. I can’t complain about it. It’s been fantastic. It’s just been long,” said Hend.
Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand and Steve Lewton of England, ranked 70th and 105th on the Order of Merit, renewed some of hope of saving their Tour card for next season after shooting a 69 and 68 respectively.
They need to finish inside the top-60 on the Order of Merit to retain their playing rights on the region’s premier Tour in 2017.
Lewton, who won his first Asian Tour title at the 2014 Mercuries Taiwan Masters, eagled the par four ninth hole with a six-iron from 202 yards before returning with two birdies and one bogey.
“I just bogeyed the previous hole and then hit 6-iron from 202 I think, and it was on-line, but I thought it might be really short but it just reached, so very fortunate. I was a bit excited when it went in,” said Lewton.
“I’m trying to save my Asian Tour card for the year. Definitely a good start and see how we go from here. Need to be pushing the next three days, so see how we get on,” he added.
The talented Thai Jazz was disappointed to end the day with a bogey. “This golf course is still really tricky. You need to hole putts, and the challenge of this course is the greens. It’s very hard to hole putts, too. Experience doesn’t help much.
“Yes, you can’t be too aggressive. You have to just let it drop in the hole here because the greens are getting faster every day, too,” he said.