O’TOOLE HOLDS ONE-SHOT LEAD IN NANSHA QUALIFYING

John Michael O’Toole posted a three under-par score of 68 to lead the Volvo China Open Guangzhou Nansha International Qualifying by a single shot today.

Starting from the 10th tee, the 24-year-old American found himself two over par after three holes having made a double bogey on the short par-three 12th hole having plugged in a bunker, however he redressed the balance with birdies on his eighth and ninth holes.

Another dropped shot on the narrow par-four third hole saw O’Toole go back into blue numbers on the leaderboard, but a superb six-iron from 185 yards to just 18 inches from the pin on the par-five fifth hole saw a tap-in eagle and a share of the lead.

A further birdie on the par-three eighth hole was followed by a solid drive and yet another sublime iron shot to the par-five ninth where O’Toole two-putted from 20-feet for a birdie four.

“The third was probably the most important hole today as I was lucky to find my ball in the trees, but I managed to punch it out and make a bogey. I could have easily taken a seven or an eight there,” said the Alabama native.

“I’ve been playing good, solid golf for the past couple of weeks so I’m hoping it will continue for the rest of the year. I’m hoping to get into as many big events as I can and I’m looking forward to coming back in April to play in the Volvo China Open, if I can qualify tomorrow.”

Veteran Lien Lu-sen from Chinese Taipei began the day with a birdie three on the first but then dropped five shots from the fifth to the eighth holes and appeared to be heading for a less than impressive score.

The highly experienced player did not dwell on the dropped shots, however, and responded with five birdies on the back nine including a 30-yard birdie putt on the difficult par-four 15th to come back in 30 strokes and finish at two under-par, just one-shot shy of the leader.

“I felt terrible because I played much too aggressively at the beginning – I wanted to hit every approach shot close to the pin,” said Lien, 44, who lives in Taipei. “Everything changed from the ninth hole where my putting rhythm came back, and I made birdie there from six feet.”

The leaderboard reflected the diversity of the field with players from Finland, the USA and Thailand taking up the next three places.

Teemu Putkonen of Finland held the lead for much of the round having shot two under par on his first nine. An inward nine of 37 kept him in the hunt, and just a pitching wedge followed a 400-yard drive on the downhill 535-yard par-five ninth hole to the green from where the Finn two-putted for birdie.

“Overall I played and putted very well today,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s a tricky course and I’m glad that the weather warmed up as the day went on, because it was pretty cold when we teed off at eight o’clock this morning.

“I can’t say I’m used to this weather even though I’m from Finland, as I’ve been based in Thailand for the past four years.

“I hit a really good drive on nine and I had only a pitching wedge to the middle of the green. It was quite a quirky pin position but I managed to two-putt for birdie. I’m really happy about that.”

Berry Henson of the USA traded six birdies against six bogeys and described the challenge of the front nine of the golf course as “brutal”. However the 39-year-old Californian is well in the hunt at level par and will be expecting to limit the dropped shots tomorrow and to claim one of the three qualifying places available and a place in the Volvo China Open.

GUANGZHOU NANSHA GOLF CLUB, 6 FEBRUARY 2018

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