VOLVO CHINA OPEN INTERNATIONAL QUALIFYING BEGINS AT NANSHA

International qualifying for the 2018 Volvo China Open begins tomorrow at Guangzhou Nansha Golf Club and will see three players win through to a place in China’s national Open.

Most of the field played in the official practice round today over the challenging 6,551-yard par-71 Nansha course in bright but blustery and cool conditions. Most were pleased to learn that the temperature is expected to rise slightly as the week progresses.

Berry Henson took his first look at the course after arriving at 2am following a late night flight from Kuala Lumpur. The 39-year-old American stood at joint second after the third round of the US$3 million Malaysian Championship last week and eventually finished in a creditable 10th place on Sunday.

Henson had not played competitively for 18 months due to wrist surgery, and so has been playing on a medical exemption on the Asia Tour, starting in December on the Development Tour.

“I’ve been playing really well lately. I finished 10th last week in Malaysia and I finished fourth the week before in Myanmar. The week before that I finished eighth in Singapore so that was three top 10s in a row,” said Henson, who lives in Rancho Mirage, California.

“My goal for this year is to play the Asian Tour full time but my main goal is to play on the PGA Tour. If my Asian Tour ranking is high enough I can get into the CIMB in Malaysia and also the HSBC Champions and the CJ Cup.”

Fellow American Blake Snyder is also in the field and is eager to repeat his performance of last year when he won the international qualifier over the New Course at Hong Kong Golf Club.

“The front nine here is much harder than the back nine,” said 25-year-old from Seattle. “You really need to plan where you are going to leave the golf ball with the tee shot.

“The greens are good and the ball will stop, but they’re a little bit firm. You need to leave yourself uphill putts but you also need to plan where to leave your return putt if you miss the first one.”

Chinese Taipei’s Lawrence Ting is familiar with the back nine of the Nansha course having won the qualifier as a 15-year-old amateur when it was played here in 2015. The talented youngster shot rounds of 66 and 69 to finish two shots clear of the field on five under par.

“I think the front nine will be quite challenging as it’s quite tight off the tee on several of the holes,” said Ting, who has his father caddying for him. “The greens are in excellent condition although a couple of them have slopes that mean downhill putts will be very hard to stop.”

Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul opted not to play a practice round today but is keen to claim one of the three qualifying places available this week.

“I’ve wanted to play in the Volvo China Open for many years so I decided to come to the international qualifying event this year,” said Gunn, who lives in Bangkok.

GUANGZHOU NANSHA GOLF CLUB, 5 FEBRUARY 2018

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