HONG KONG: Aaron Rai, Jason Scrivener and Yusaku Miyazato all shot five-under-par 65s to share the lead after the opening round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday, as US Masters champion Patrick Reed struggled in windy conditions at Fanling.
Making the most of calm conditions, Rai made his move on the back-nine as he followed up a birdie on the par-three 12th with a tap-in eagle on par-five 13th, courtesy a stunning approach which landed within inches of the cup.
Further birdies on the 17th and first ensured the Briton, who started his round on the 10th hole, grabbed the clubhouse lead, before he was joined by Australian Scrivener and Miyazato of Japan.
Scrivener picked up four shots in five holes from the 12th to sign for a bogey-free round, while Miyazato bagged three birdies on each nine to offset a lone bogey at the ninth to set up a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.
Rai was pleased with a bogey-free start to the first tournament of the 2019 European Tour season but said the conditions for the afternoon starters had opened the door for the leading trio to grab a one-shot advantage.
“I think we were lucky with the weather today,” the 23-year-old told reporters. “When we got here this morning it was kind of blowy, so the guys this morning had it harder than we did but nonetheless it’s a tough course.
“I think anything under par was a good score and I was very pleased with a 65 to start off.”
England’s world number nine Tommy Fleetwood, the highest ranked player in the field, sank three birdies and two bogeys in a mixed round of 69 to sit four strokes off the lead in a tie for 23rd.
Reed, however, who finished tied for second in the 2018 European Tour season-ending event in Dubai last weekend, had a round to forget after opening his campaign with a disappointing five-over-par 75.
The 28-year-old American double-bogeyed the par-four 14th, following a run of four bogeys in six holes from the sixth, with a lone birdie on the 13th leaving the American well off the pace in a tie for 113th.