YANTAI, SHANDONG, CHINA—Tall American Joseph Winslow fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the RMB 1.5 million Yantai Championship, the seventh event on this season’s PGA TOUR Series-China. China’s Daxing Jin and New Zealand’s Mathew Perry each shot 67 to share second.
Hong Kong’s Motin Yeung, who won last month’s Kunming Championship and is currently second on the Order of Merit behind American Charlie Saxon (73), carded a 68 to share fourth with two-time winner Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand and left-handers Corey Hale of Australia and American Ryan Siegler.
England’s William Harrold, runner-up in the season’s first two events, shot 68 at Yantai Nanshan Mashanzai Golf Club to tie for eighth with Chinese duo Chengyao Ma and amateur Senshou “Tommy” Cao, American Benjamin Lein, Australian Deyen Lawson, Canada’s Richard Jung and Korean Myunghwa Hong.
Winslow, 20th on the Order of Merit, won the second International Qualifying Tournament in February and is eager to claim his first title on the Tour after top-10 finishes in his first two events. Teeing off on 10, the 6-foot-5 American birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 on his first nine, then picked up further shots on Nos. 5, 7 and 8.
“I felt solid all across the board. I drove it well, I putted it well and did what I needed to do in the wind. My mental game was maybe the best part,” said Winslow, who’s enjoying the Ian Woosnam-designed course set along the Shandong province coastline.
“The course is awesome. It’s beautiful. You can see the ocean on 17 out of 18 holes and the whole back nine is out on the water. It’s very peaceful and the guys have done a wonderful job to get this place in great shape for us.”
After the frustration of finishing 20th in the Kunming Championship last month, Winslow returned to his hometown of Kansas City where he made some adjustments and trained with his younger brother Michael, who is gearing up to play next week’s U.S. Open Junior Amateur. He believes his preparation for this week will serve him well as he seeks to stay in front.
“Kunming was a tournament I really wanted to win and I played well enough to do so, but I didn’t quite take advantage of some of the areas I needed to. I wanted to make sure I did my due diligence at home and came back here ready to go,” said Winslow.
“The last win I had was at Q-School where once we grabbed the lead, we ran with it. I’m excited. I want guys to come try to chase me, but I’m going to keep staying ahead.”
Jin, 17th on the Order of Merit, is also looking for his first win on the Tour after three-top 10 finishes this year including a share of fifth at the season-opening Chengdu Championship.
After pars on his opening six holes, the 25-year-old carded six birdies and a bogey in windy conditions and was happy with his performance, which was 14 shots better than his pro-am score a day earlier.
“I think the course was a bit tricky. There was a lot of wind out there. The course is also quite narrow so it’s important to play well. If you don't play well, it's hard to save the ball,” said Jin, who is based in Hainan.
“I didn’t set many goals for myself before I set off today. I hit 81 in the pro-am so I tried to go for as many greens as possible and make fewer mistakes. As a result, I played very well today and scored five-under. I'm happy about that.”
After two runner-ups and a third in his first three seasons on the Tour, Perry is playing on the Series for the first time this year, but showed few signs of rust. First off the 10th tee at 6.30 a.m., the 31-year-old fired seven birdies, including all four of the par-5s, and two bogeys.
“I’m happy. I just need to do the same tomorrow and play one shot at a time. I didn’t putt overly great today and I just managed to hit the par-5s close enough,” said Perry, 31, who lives in Melbourne but is originally from Hamilton in New Zealand.
“I never have any expectations because that is out of my control. I just play for the shot, live in the moment and if I can get myself in contention on Sunday, then we’ll see what happens.”
Every tournament on this year’s PGA TOUR Series-China offers RMB 1.5 million, a 25-percent increase over purse levels from 2016.
The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Caaada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.