Promising starts for Richie Ramsay and Stephen Gallacher in China
Richie Ramsay got off to a promising start for the second week in a row and was joined in breaking par by Stephen Gallacher on his return from an injury lay-off in the Shenzhen International in China.
On a weather-affected first day at Genzon Golf Club, Ramsay opened with a 69, the same score he started with seven days earlier in the Spanish Open at Valderrama.
Adding to a feeling of deja vu for the Aberdonian, he was again left chasing Alexander Levy after the Frenchman, who also led a week ago, set the pace once more with a 66 that was matched later in the day by South Korean Soomin Lee.
Following a 46-minute lightning suspension during the afternoon, play was suspended overnight due to darkness with 11 groups still to finish.
The first round will resume at 6.50am tomorrow, when South African Brandon Stone sits on four-under playing the last.
Ramsay was challenging Levy for the lead at five-under par after 13 holes before a hat-trick of bogeys from the 14th, but stopped the rot with a birdie on the 17th.
“I played lovely to get it to five-under,” Ramsay told European Tour radio. “I was just a little bit poor in the chipping, but then birdied the 17th, which was nice after a rough few holes.
“I also made a good par at the last, which is never an easy as it is a tough driving hole.”
Ramsay tied for 11th in this event 12 months ago, closing with rounds of 66 and 66 to finish just three shots behind the winner, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
“I like the golf course,” added the three-time European Tour winner. “It suits my eye and that’s one of the reasons that I made the trip.
“When you are travelling from Valderrama to China, it’s tiring, so it’s a lovely start and a nice position going into tomorrow’s round.”
As Levy showed with his flawless six-birdie salvo, players were finding this test much easier than the one at Valderrama, where Englishman Andrew Johnston finished over par in claiming his maiden European Tour win.
“It is obviously softer out here,” said Ramsay. “That means a lot more aggressive plays and a lot more drivers off the tee for me this week. You can even be quite aggressive with 4 or 5-iron to the flag as greens are holding.
“The greens ate putting lovely and anything inside 15-20 feet you feel you can make them.”
Gallacher is making his first European Tour appearance since withdrawing from the Perth International at the end of February.
The 41-year-old underwent surgery soon afterwards, having been niggled by a hand injury since the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last May.
He decided not to rush back for the Spanish Open and that decision looked to have been vindicated as the Lothians star carded a two-under-par 70 to sit joint-17th in the clubhouse.
Two-under with four to player, he ran up a double-bogey 6 at the 15th but recovered straight away with back-to-back birdies.
“It’s just great to be back playing pain-free again,” he later posted on Twitter, having only recently joined social media.
Jamie McLeary and Craig Lee, with level-par 72s, were the next best among the Scottish contingent. McLeary’s card contained four birdies but also a triple-bogey 7 at the 15th while Lee signed for two double-bogeys as well as four birdies.
David Drysdale had a 73, one less than Marc Warren and three better than Andrew McArthur, while Scott Jamieson, who has three holes left to play, resumes on two-over.
Levy clearly likes this course, having fired a 62 at the same venue en route to his first European Tour title in the Volvo China Open in 2014.
“I have some very good memories here, and it’s always nice to play a golf course where you have had your first win,” said the 25-year-old.
Fellow pacesetter Lee was also foot perfect in his opening round. “I think this course seems to me to be a bit like Malaysia (where he finished in a share of second place),” he said. “So that’s good for me - small, narrow greens and heavy rough.”