Matching three-over-par 75s in round one of the DP World Tour’s Korean Championship presented by Genesis leave Tom McKibbin and Gary Hurley facing an uphill task if they’re to make the 36-hole cut.
Enduring a difficult period in his rookie season, four missed cuts in a row left Hurley in need of something positive, and with an early tee time in round one, two birdies on his outward nine – the back nine today – saw him turn at -2 in a healthy position on the albeit early leaderboard.
A bogey on the first was compounded by a double on the fourth, and he’d add two more bogeys on six and seven to reach the clubhouse at +3 for the day.
McKibbin was out in the penultimate group and also began his round on the tenth and an early birdie on 12 got the ball rolling. The promising start was quickly wiped out with back-to-back double bogeys on the par-4 14th and par-5 15th holes, and he’d drop another on 16 to complete a horror three-hole stretch.
He rebound impressively with back-to-back birdies on the 18th and the first, but another dropped shot at the par-5 seventh saw him tie Hurley in the clubhouse at +3 in a tie for 111th and two strokes behind the cut mark as it stands after round one.
Antoine Rozner equalled his lowest career 18-hole score to take the first round lead with a bogey-free round of 63 to open up a commanding four-shot advantage.
The Frenchman started from the tenth tee in the morning and fired six birdies on his front nine before picking up three more shots after the turn to get to nine under par.
None of the afternoon starters were able to get close to the 30-year-old at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, as he continued the form that has seen him pick up his third DP World Tour title at the the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and record three other top-ten finishes so far in the 2023 season.
Home favourite Park Sanghyun, who finished third on one of the DP World Tour’s previous stops in Korea at the 2011 Ballantine’s Championship, and England’s Andy Sullivan are Rozner’s nearest challengers on five under.
South Korean Lee Hyungjoon was among those another shot further back in a tie for fourth, alongside Alexander Knappe, Pablo Larrazábal, Alexander Björk and Yannik Paul, who finished his round in style with an eagle on the 18th.
“A lot of things went my way today,” Rozner said afterwards. “I obviously played well, but you need a bit of luck to shoot 63, especially on a hard golf course like this one.
“I holed a really good one on the 11th hole, my second hole of the day. It went straight in the centre of the hole and I thought ‘maybe it could be a good day’ and it was. I’m really pleased, I hit some superb shots, amazing outs as well. Really great start.
“Played super solid, I played the two par fives really well (on his front nine) and still had two more to go. It’s a tough course, you have to keep grinding and you have to focus on the shots. I did that well.
“I didn’t have so many chances on my back nine, but when I had a chance I made it. It was a pure day of golf, one of those days when you wish you could play like this all the time.”
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