Matt Fitzpatrick one off lead as stars shine in Hong Kong
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 24/11/17 10:31am
Matt Fitzpatrick is just one off the lead as SSP Chawrasia upstaged a star-studded leaderboard on the opening day of the new European Tour season at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Fitzpatrick defied the cool and windy conditions in Fanling to fire a four-under 66, while Tommy Fleetwood started the defence of his Race to Dubai title with a solid 68 on a day when only 34 of the 132-player field managed to break 70.
Justin Rose, who lost out to Fleetwood by a single shot in last season's race to be crowned European No 1, was also two under for his round, with Masters champion Sergio Garcia a further stroke adrift.
Chawrasia ended the day in the outright lead after an impressive performance, racing out of the blocks with birdies at two of his first three holes after starting at the 11th, and the Indian star also birdied 16 and 18 to hit the top of the leaderboard.
Another birdie followed at the third before he made his only mistake of the round at the fifth, but he converted an excellent approach to the ninth and a par at his final hole ensured the outright lead.
Fitzpatrick, keen to bounce back from an erratic weekend in Dubai after leading at the halfway stage, was one under for his round after a bogey at the first - his ninth - before kick-starting his challenge with three consecutive birdies.
The Ryder Cup star failed to save par at the sixth, but he got the shot back at the next before parring in to join Chawrasia's compatriot Shubhankar Sharma in a share of second place.
"It's a good start to the week," said Fitzpatrick. "It's not an easy course around here and I hit the ball great from tee to green. I think I had seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, it was a good day.
"We had a bit of a crowd with us which was great. People are going to be following Tommy seeing as he won The Race to Dubai last week. I always enjoy playing with him - I played with Tommy in my first start as a pro so we have known each other for quite some time and it's always good to play with him."
Fleetwood is playing his fifth consecutive tournament, but he showed little signs of fatigue as he started with a birdie at 11 and followed a run of seven pars with further gains at the first and fourth.
The 26-year-old slipped back to one under with dropped shots at six and nine, but he ended the day on a high note with a good birdie at the 10th which got him to within three of the leader, and he was delighted with his battling qualities on a tricky day for scoring.
"That was a really tough, difficult morning of golf," he said afterwards. "I think the course is brilliant but once you start getting out of position out there, especially in this kind of wind, it makes it so difficult.
"I hit it pretty well and put myself in position a lot and gave myself a few chances. Everything felt good today which is always a nice feeling to have when conditions are so tough."
Rose got to three under when he made his fifth birdie of a positive round after a superb approach to inside three feet at the 17th, although he blotted his card for the third time at the last to post a 68.
Garcia also bogeyed the last to cap an entertaining inward 36, which he started with a double-bogey at the 10th before reeling off three birdies in five holes from the 12th.
The Spaniard's compatriot and Ryder Cup team-mate Rafa Cabrera Bello also returned a 69 along with defending champion Sam Brazel, while four-time champion Miguel Angel Jimenez opened with a commendable 70.