A frustrating final hole bogey shouldn’t take away from a fine first day for Cormac Sharvin who opened his Foshan Open account with a four-under par round of 68.
Entering the week as one of only two players in the top-15 on the Road to Mallorca standings not to have won this season, the Ardglass professional, starting on the back-nine, birdied the first before giving the shot straight back at the 11th, his second.
The 27-year old then kicked into gear, taking advantage of the two par-5’s on his outward half in birdie fours before picking up three more gains in four holes from the second, his 11th.
Sharvin failed to take advantage of the par-5 eighth, the only one of the long obstacles he didn’t manage to birdie on the round but it proved to be a 5-5 finish as the Northern Irishman bogeyed the last.
All-up, four-under was another rock-solid effort for a man who’s missed only three cuts in his 14 starts, finishing in the top ten on eight of those occasions, with Sharvin sharing 11th spot, four back of the lead heading into day two in China.
Ben Stow celebrated his birthday in style by setting a new course record of 64, eight-under par at Foshan Golf Club to lead by one stroke after the opening day.
The newly minted 28-year-old sits one shot ahead of Germany’s Alexander Knappe, who would have joined Stow as holder of the course record if not for a closing bogey, while six players share third place on six under par, including 2017 Champion Oliver Farr.
Stow, playing in the first group of the day off the tenth tee, bounced back from a double bogey on the 17th hole – his eighth – with a birdie to make the turn in two under par and then notched five consecutive gains from the second to the sixth, which catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard, before a closing birdie saw him beat the existing course record of 65, set by Rhys Davies and Scott Arnold.
The Englishman, alongside playing partners Wil Besseling and Simon Hawkes, raced around Foshan Golf Club, with their front nine taking just one hour and 50 minutes and Stow spoke of how much he enjoyed the pace of play.
“It was great to play so quickly,” he said. “We played the front nine in one hour and 50 minutes, which in tournament golf is unheard-of.
“It was great; we were out first and with Wil and Simon, none of us are slow and we didn’t really rush, we just played when we were ready. It was really enjoyable actually.
“I played great and putted well so I’m really chuffed. I’ve been working really hard recently so it’s nice to get some results.
“I played really solid and I just hit one bad tee shot down 17. Where I left my approach shot left me with a very, very fast putt and I just missed it coming back.
“I knew I was playing well and on 18 the wind was down when we played it so I managed to get it quite a long way up 18 and then I easily made the green in two and then it was a good two-putt.”
The 2018 Prague Golf Challenge winner missed a period of time earlier this year through injury but despite the frustration of being side-lined at the time, Stow admits he is now reaping the benefits of the enforced mid-season break.
“Traditionally I haven’t played very well in China but I had six weeks off this year with an injury in July and right now, I think it’s a bit of a saving grace because I feel fresh and quite chilled out,” he said.
“In previous years I’ve always played quite a lot and then got here and felt quite tired, so maybe the moral of the story is take a month off in July.”
Joining Farr in a tie for third place on six-under par is Australia’s Cory Crawford, Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil Champion Matthew Jordan, Finland’s Roope Kakko, Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge winner Steven Tiley and Aron Zemmer of Italy.
Rounding off the top ten in a tie for ninth place is Ricardo Santos of Portugal and China’s Liu Yanwei on five-under par, who is currently the leading Chinese player.
The second round of the Foshan Open will again begin at 6.55am local time, with Sharvin taking to the course just after midnight Irish time (12.25am).
Full scoring HERE