Big guns open up on first day of Hong Kong Open

The big guns in the Hong Kong Open started to show their class after the first round Thursday, with Justin Rose setting himself up for the tournament by hitting five under to sit in joint second after a "solid" performance.

Justin Rose has won just one PGA Tour title this season.   -  REUTERS

The big guns in the Hong Kong Open started to show their class after the first round Thursday, with Justin Rose setting himself up for the tournament by hitting five under to sit in joint second after a "solid" performance.

The two joint leaders were Taiwan's Lu Wei-chih and Italy's Andrea Pavan who shot six under par rounds at the par 70 course.

Lu's journey to the top of the leaderboard was even more remarkable given he had a brain tumour removed just three years ago.

Another surprise package was Ian Poulter, who only arrived in Hong Kong Wednesday evening after the European Tour found him a last-minute place in a bid to save his season.

Graeme McDowell, who by his own admission has had a disappointing year, said he got his confidence back after hitting four under. McDowell, who won the 2010 US Open, said Thursday he was carrying his newly rediscovered form onto the Hong Kong course.

"The two weapons in my bag which have misfired this year are my driver and my putter -- those are the two things that have hurt me the most," he said. "But today I felt loose on the greens and I putted nicely."

Rose, whose previous visit to the Fanling course resulted in a long weekend on the town after he failed to make the cut, said he was happy with his performance. "I began to build some confidence today and I played a really good, solid, patient round of golf," he said.

One of Rose's highlights was a birdie on the 10th - the first of four in the back nine which saw a strong finish from England's world number seven.

The USA's Dustin Johnson, ranked number eight, recovered from two bogeys on the first two holes, hitting an eagle on the third and a birdie on the 15th to end the day at one under par.

Unexpected entrant Poulter took the place of American Rich Beem so he could complete the minimum 13 events necessary to retain his European Tour membership and keep alive his hopes of playing in the Ryder Cup next year.

The Englishman, who has seen his world ranking plummet and now, sits outside the top 50, appeared relieved after shooting three under. "Overall, I've played pretty nicely, on a course which I've had to get to know again pretty quickly," said the former Hong Kong Open champion. "I left a few putts short but I have to be happy with that landing last night."

The 39-year-old revealed he had since thanked Beem in person. "I saw him in the hotel, so I went over and said, that's awfully kind of him to do that," he said.

Taiwan's Lu, who’s six under was not beaten all day, said he had a difficult start before he birdied the fourth, fifth and sixth holes and ended feeling "very comfortable".

Jeev Milkha Singh from India, sitting in joint second on five under, said he was recovering well from a shoulder injury and welcomed the atmosphere on a day when spectators were let in for free. "For sure, there were a lot of people out here today, and I think it's great to see the crowds come out," he said. "It's good for the game, and especially for the Asian players and also the top players who have come to play from Europe and the US."