CHONGQING, CHINA—Indonesia No. 2 Rory Hie fired eight birdies in a 5-under 67 at Poly Golf Club to share the first-round lead with England’s William Harrold and Japan’s Yusuke Minamoto at the RMB 1.5 million Chongqing Championship, the second event on this season’s PGA TOUR Series-China.
China’s Changping Chen, who has worked at Poly Golf Club for six years, shot 68 to share fourth with American Joseph Winslow and Australian Max McCardle, one shot ahead of a five-strong group including 20-year-old Yanwei “William” Liu and Chinese compatriot Rongjian Tang.
USA’s Jeffrey Kang, who won the season-opening Chengdu Championship last week, shot an even-par 72 after suffering a double-bogey six on the par-4 15th, the course’s hardest hole.
Hie tied for eighth in Chengdu and started with two birdies in Chongqing before adding two more on the front nine against one bogey to make the turn at 3-under. After a bogey-birdie start to the back nine, he also bogeyed the 15th before coming home with three straight birdies.
“I hit a lot of good iron shots today and managed to birdie three of the four par-3s. That shows I’m hitting good iron shots so I’m pretty happy with it,” said Hie, whose best result on the Tour is a tie for fourth in Chongqing, at a different venue, in 2015.
“I think you need to get the ball in play first and once you do that, you’ve got to attack the flag with your iron shots. That’s the main thing about this course because there’s actually plenty of birdie opportunities as long as you create them.”
Harrold, nicknamed the ‘Swinging Farmer’, tied for second last week on his Tour debut and again enjoyed himself as he picked up six birdies and one bogey to record his fourth 67 in his last five rounds.
“I think it’s just the set-up of the courses. I’m playing well to shoot 5-under four times and the conditions of the courses are pretty good,” said Harrold, who’s attempting to become the first Englishman to win on the Tour.
“You can pick up a few shots, whereas if some courses were not in such good condition, you probably wouldn’t be able to sneak those putts in for par or birdie.”
Chen, 33, took advantage of local knowledge to fire an eagle and four birdies on the front nine to take the lead at 6-under before recording a double-bogey, two birdies and two bogeys on the back nine.
“I tried to keep most of my shots away from the high side of the fairway, so I could have an easier shot to approach the green. The approach shots are definitely the most challenging part of this golf course, and you need to be very smart with your club selection,” Chen said.
“I didn’t make the cut in Chengdu, so I changed some things. I practiced my putting and swing a lot this week, and it looked like it worked. Everything is working well, so that’s awesome. I am going to stick to my game plan and keep playing smart.”
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 Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.