Guangzhou (CHINA): Sweden’s Andreas Gronkvist remains on course for a place in the 25th Volvo China Open and takes a three-shot lead into the final round of the Guangzhou Nansha International Qualifying event at Nansha Golf Club on Friday (March 15).

Despite heavy showers hitting the Valley Course, the World Number 841 fired eight birdies in an opening round 63 (-7) to stay well on course for a place in China’s National Open Championship in Shenzhen in May.

The top three finishers this week will secure invites to the Volvo China Open with the Swede leading the 50-man field by three from Chinese Taipei’s Chieh Po Lee and Sueng Jae Maeng of the USA, who both shot 66 (-4).

For Gronkvist that opening round 63 comes less than three months after recording his maiden win on the China Tour.

“I got off to a really solid start today and just missed two eagles on the opening three holes,” said the 27-year-old who rolled in five birdies in the first seven holes.

“I wasn’t really sure how I was going to play so the quick start gave me a solid platform to work from and allowed me to calm down and not chase anything. Although we had a rain delay of about 30 minutes on the 13th green, the course is good and it can handle water. “

The final round will see the players compete in three-balls – and for Gronkvist it’s a chance to play alongside a fellow pro he knows better than most.

“I’m actually rooming with Sueng Jae Maeng this week as we’re good friends,” he added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun playing with SJ tomorrow - if we can both finish in the top three and qualify it will be a great day for both of us.”

Now in his third year competing in Asia, Gronkvist believes his game has improved greatly since gaining full China Tour status in 2018 and is eager to continue his progress with a place in the nation’s flagship event in less than two months’ time.

“I played with the current Volvo China Open champion Alexander Bjork when we were both on the Nordic Tour and obviously, as a Swede, it would be a great honour to play in such a huge event so my aim will be to relax tonight and go out to do it all again tomorrow.”

Just three shots back, Chinese Tapei’s Chieh Po Lee is making his third appearance in the International Qualifying event having finished second and successfully qualified to play in The European Tour event in 2016.

“I was kind of nervous at the start as I haven’t played any tournament golf since the Asian Tour Q School two months ago,” said Lee whose round of 66 included four birdies and an eagle. “But I had a solid start and three birdies on 14, 15 and 16 helped me settle. To be honest the wet weather didn’t bother me too much as it rains a lot back home in Chinese Taipei.”

Despite dropping two shots in his final three holes, Korean-born Sueng Jae Maeng is happy to be in contention after a soggy opening round saw just seven players finish below par.

“I’ve been playing well recently but with the weather today it was just about survival and trying to make pars,” said the 24-year-old. “I hit it well all day but a bogey-bogey-par finish is disappointing as the last three holes are not too tough. It was a sour finish but still a solid day.”

With just six shots covering the top seven players, there is everything to play for as the players look to secure a place at the 25th anniversary of the RMB 20 million tournament in Shenzhen in May. The final round of the Volvo China Open International Qualifying at Guangzhou Nansha Golf Club Valley Course will get underway on March 15 at 7.30am.








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