Li Haotong, once the great hope of Chinese golf, continued to show he is on the road to recovery today after taking the first-round lead in the inaugural International Series Macau presented by Wynn.

Li shot a confidence-building seven-under-par 63 at Macau Golf and Country Club, with LIV Golf League stars Mito Pereira of Chile and Pat Perez from the United States plus Japan sensation Yuta Sugiura next best placed following 64s.

Li had a shocking 2023, missing nearly every cut. However, the 28-year-old has shown a marked improvement this year, including a top-10 finish in the Dubai Desert Classic – the event he won in 2018. He made eight birdies and dropped just one shot today.

“Played really solid, gave myself a lot of birdie chances,” said Li, who has won seven times as a professional, including his national Open in 2016.

“I wasn’t that comfortable with some of the tee shots, but it was a solid day. This is my fourth or fifth time here. This time around the experience is a little bit better and hopefully, I can keep playing like this and see how we go.

“I was just hoping to play steady today. No way did I think I would shoot seven under.”

Pereira, who made seven birdies and one bogey, is playing his fourth straight event. Despite admitting to fatigue, his game appears to be as sharp as ever.

“To be honest, I am really tired,” said the 28-year-old, who plays for Torque GC on the LIV Golf League.

“I am ready to go home but it’s the last push. I am trying to give it my best.”

He tied for fourth in the International Series Oman last month before playing LIV Golf events in Jeddah and Hong Kong.

He added: “Pretty solid today, tee to green. Made some good putts, some clutch putts, to keep the momentum going. Really happy with how I played overall.”

4Aces GC star Perez made seven birdies and one bogey, just like Pereira, although five of his birdies came on a brilliant bogey-free back nine.

The 48-year-old says he is reaping the rewards from extensive practice.

He said: “To be honest, I have been working really hard on my game and it’s showing.

“It was nice today, I hit it really good, the wind was blowing. There are some tight tee shots out there, I played great. I just screwed up one hole.

“I have been playing good all week, the course kind of fits my eye. I was excited to play. You need to keep your driver in play here.

“It’s cool being here, it’s mini-Vegas, and I love Vegas.”

Sugiura, perhaps inspired by his compatriot Takahiro Hataji’s memorable win at the New Zealand Open at the beginning of the month, looked set to share the lead with Li but he dropped a shot on his final hole – his only bogey of the day.

He is yet another exciting young golfer to emerge from the Land of the Rising Sun. He won the Dunlop Pheonix as an amateur last year and is in his first year as a professional, and could well be one to watch out for this week. He made it through this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School.

Scott Hend is in a large group of players who returned 65s.

The Australian being in contention is no surprise. He won the Macau Open here twice, in 2013 and 2015, and is out to make amends for letting the New Zealand Open slip from his grasp two weeks ago. There, he three-putted the 18th to hand Hataji a one-shot victory, and frustratingly miss out on his 11th Asian Tour title.

This week’s US$2million event is the second tournament of The International Series’ 2024 season and the fourth stop on the Asian Tour.

Scores after round 1 of the International Series Macau presented by Wynn being played at Macau Golf & Country Club, a par-70, 6,637-yard course. (am – denotes amateur):

63 – Li Haotong (CHN).
64 – Mito Pereira (CHI), Pat Perez (USA), Yuta Sugiura (JPN).
65 – Pattaraphol Khanthacha (THA), Scott Hend (AUS), David Puig (ESP), Patrick Reed (USA), Mingyu Cho (KOR), Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Carlos Ortiz (MEX), Bjorn Hellgren (SWE), Phachara Khongwatmai (THA), Martin Trainer (FRA).
66 – Hudson Swafford (USA), Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA), Minkyu Kim (KOR), Andy Ogletree (USA), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Younghan Song (KOR), Matthew Cheung (HKG), Kalle Samooja (FIN), Jaco Ahlers (RSA), Sanghyun Park (KOR), Trevor Simsby (USA), Siddikur Rahman (BAN).
67 – Guntaek Koh (KOR), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA), Chanmin Jung (KOR), John Catlin (USA), Andrew Dodt (AUS), Hung Chien-yao (TPE), Kyongjun Moon (KOR), Jeongwoo Ham (KOR), Ye Wocheng (CHN), Sampson Zheng (am, CHN), Jason Kokrak (USA), Ben Campbell (NZL), Liu Yanwei (CHN), Harold Varner III (USA), Lucas Herbert (AUS), Richard T. Lee (CAN), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Todd Sinnott (AUS), Jeunghun Wang (KOR), Jaewoong Eom (KOR), Miguel Carballo (ARG), William Harrold (ENG), Kristoffer Broberg (SWE), Yeongsu Kim (KOR), Ervin Chang (MAS), Naoki Sekito (JPN).
68 – Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA), Ian Poulter (ENG), Chen Guxin (CHN), Gunn Charoenkul (THA), Wade Ormsby (AUS), Taichi Kho (HKG), Veer Ahlawat (IND), Michael Maguire (USA), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), James Piot (USA), Koh Deng Shan (SIN), Seungsu Han (USA), Charng-Tai Sudsom (THA), Kieran Vincent (ZIM), Takumi Kanaya (JPN), Carlos Pigem (ESP), Angelo Que (PHI), Kevin Yuan (AUS), Junggon Hwang (KOR).
69 – Justin Quiban (PHI), Ben Leong (MAS), Kazuki Higa (JPN), David Drysdale (SCO), Matt Killen (ENG), Sarit Suwannarut (THA), Michael Hendry (NZL), Neil Schietekat (RSA), Aaron Wilkin (AUS), Taehoon Ok (KOR), Yongjun Bae (KOR), Leon D’Souza (HKG), Charlie Lindh (SWE), Denwit Boriboonsub (THA), Travis Smyth (AUS), Stefano Mazzoli (ITA), Poom Saksansin (THA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Ian Snyman (RSA), Steve Lewton (ENG), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Wooyoung Cho (KOR).
70 – Ngai Si (am, MAC), Ho Yu-cheng (TPE), Berry Henson (USA), Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (IND), Jared Du Toit (CAN), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Maverick Antcliff (AUS), Shiv Kapur (IND), Karandeep Kochhar (IND), Rashid Khan (IND), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Danthai Boonma (THA), Li Linqiang (CHN).
71 – Pui In Hun (MAC), Bio Kim (KOR), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Sebastian Munoz (COL), Marcus Fraser (AUS), Prom Meesawat (THA), Sihwan Kim (USA), Danny Lee (NZL), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Taehee Lee (KOR), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA), Zach Murray (AUS), Deyen Lawson (AUS).
72 – Ma Bingwen (am, CHN), Jazz Janewattananond (THA), Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND), Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Abel Gallegos (ARG), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Brendan Jones (AUS).
73 – Mardan Mamat (SIN), Jed Morgan (AUS), Justin Harding (RSA), Chikkarangappa S. (IND).
74 – Shahriffuddin Ariffin (MAS), Othman Almulla (KSA), Eugenio Chacarra (ESP), Anthony Kim (USA), Seungtaek Lee (KOR), Justin Warren (AUS).
75 – Jeev Milkha Singh (IND).
77 – Ollie Roberts (SCO).
Hanmil Jung, Korea – RT

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