QINHUANGDAO, HEBEI, CHINA—China’s Dinggen Chen fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the RMB 1.5 million Qinhuangdao Championship, the 11th event of this season’s PGA TOUR Series-China.
England’s Stephen Lewton fired a 67, one ahead of compatriot Adam Sagar, Australian Max McCardle, Chinese Taipei’s Tao Huang and American Charlie Saxon, the Order of Merit leader.
England’s Callum Tarren, second on the Order of Merit, shot 69 to share seventh alongside Hong Kong duo Motin Yeung and Shunyat Hak, Australians Corey Hale and DJ Loypur, American Joseph Winslow, China’s Zeyu He and Korea’s Kevin Lee.
Chen, who is from Jiangxi province, carded three birdies on the front-nine before picking up further shots on holes 10, 11 and 14. The 38-year-old has played every year on the Tour since the inaugural season in 2014, but has yet to finish in the top-10.
“You do not need to hit it long on this course to play well, but it’s important to have a good strategy. You must be precise off the tee otherwise you can end up in the woods or in the grass, which can be trouble,” said Chen, who had his best Tour results at the 2014 and 2015 Nine Dragons Open, where he finished tied for 11th.
“The putter gave me a lot of confidence today. I've adjusted my putter in the last few days, so I'm more confident.”
Lewton, who had full status on the European Tour in 2011, picked up three birdies before dropping shots on holes 10 and 12, then regrouped to birdie four of his last five holes.
The 35-year-old Englishman is looking for his breakthrough win on this Tour and hopes to keep the momentum going into the next three rounds.
“I really like the greens here. I putted nicely, so hopefully can keep that going the rest of the week,” said Lewton, who leads the Tour with most eagles this year with 11.
“I’ve played steady this year, but just haven’t really pushed on. The goal this week is try to keep it going for four days instead of three days, which I have kind of being doing a lot.”
Saxon, who has four career wins on this Tour, is also in a strong position after carding five birdies and one bogey as he looks to extend his lead on the Order of Merit.
“I played really well today. I just need to see some putts fall and I’ll be in a good spot. If I play like that the next three days and start putting well, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Any player ranked in the top-25 after this week’s Qinhuangdao Championship is exempt to the Second Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament, which will be held from October 30-November 2 and November 6-9.
From the final Order of Merit, the top-5 will earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, top-10 players are exempt to the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament from December 6-9 and any player ranked 11-25 is exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.