GRAND ROUND BY TSAI IN SHANGHAI
Taiwan’s Tsai Chi-huang made an impressive debut on the Omega China Tour today after taking the first round lead with a three-under-par 69 in the Shanghai Leg.
Taking full advantage of the organiser’s initiative to invite two players from Taiwan to compete on the fledgling Tour for the first time, Tsai took a one shot lead over China’s Gu Shutao.
Tsai, who is familiar with the course as he is based in Shanghai, nailed an eagle, four birdies and dropped three shots at Grand Shanghai International Golf and Holiday Resort.
It came close to being a clean sweep by Taiwan players on the opening day of the US$100,000 event when the other invitee Wang Ter-chang was four under with three to play. However he finished bogey, double bogey, bogey to card a 73 along with defending champion and two-time winner this season Zhang Lianwei.
Li Chao and Wu Kangchun, both with a win apiece this year, and Liao Guiming also returned 73s.
Tsai’s name at the top of the leader board is something of a blast from the past. The 39 year old was a familiar face on the Asian Tour until a back injury in 2003 resulted in him losing his card.
Up until that point his career was flourishing as he won the Taiwan PGA Championship in 1998, the 1999 Taiwan Open and the Mercuries Masters, also on home soil, in 2003.
“To be honest we never really knew what my injury was. I think I was practicing too much. I have been teaching at driving ranges in Shanghai for past few years. It’s only recently that my back has got better,” said Tsai, who was also the Asian Junior Champion in 1986.
Feeling fighting fit again Tsai is aiming for a comeback in the game and planning to head to the qualifying school in Japan later this year.
Little-known Gu is a teaching professional at the David Leadbetter Academy at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen.
The 27 year old, who finished 11th on last year’s Merit list, was quickly able to settle into his round as his playing partners are close friends.
He played flawless golf for the first 13 holes making three birdies but dropped his only shots of the day on 14 and 15.
“It’s a fairly straight forward course off the tee but the greens are tricky making approach shots difficult and there was also a stiff breeze as well,” said Gu.
Hong Kong veteran Yau Sui Ming, also a special invite this week, fired a respectable 76. The 52 year old former World Cup and Dunhill Cup player for Hong Kong made five bogeys and one birdie but was content with his first appearance on the Tour, which this season features eight events.