Derksen takes two-shot lead after opening round in China
12-year-old Chinese prodigy Ye Wo-cheng cards a 79
12-year-old Ye Wo-cheng of China tees off during the first day of the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Course in Tianjin, China. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen claimed a two-shot lead over three of the European Tour’s most in-form players after an historic first round of the Volvo China Open today.
China’s Ye Wo-cheng had to settle for a round of 79 as he became the youngest player in tour history at the age of 12 years and 242 days, but 16-year-old compatriot Dou Ze-cheng carded a two-under-par 70 at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin.
And Derksen, without a win since 2005, then birdied two of the last three holes to card a six-under 66 and finish two ahead of France’s Raphael Jacquelin, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Australian Brett Rumford.
Rumford won the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea on Sunday with an eagle three on the first hole of a three-man play-off, while Jacquelin won the Spanish Open a fortnight ago after a record-equalling nine-hole play-off.
Aphibarnrat finished fourth in the Avantha Masters in India, won the Malaysian Open the following week and then finished 11th behind Rumford at Blackstone Golf Club last week.
In contrast, Ye carded eight bogeys and just one birdie to lie 140th on seven over, but did produce one of the shots of the day when he holed a long chip for a bogey six on the sixth after losing a ball on the par-five.
“I tried to enjoy it, I was very nervous,” Ye told European Tour Radio after surpassing the record set by Guan Tianlang, who famously made the cut at the Masters last month aged 14 and was 13 years and 177 days old when he played in the same event last year.
Dou, who like Ye earnt his place in the field after coming through qualifying events, had four birdies and two bogeys in his round of 70 and said: “I started a little nervous but it was all pretty good. It was great out there.
“This is the biggest tournament I have ever played in, so to play this well is great.”
Jacquelin, today named European Tour player of the month for April after his epic win at El Saler, said: “It’s a great start, any time you have no bogeys and four birdies it’s always a good day.
“We were lucky to play seven or eight holes without much wind. The course gives you a few birdie chances, but there were some holes — like the fourth, ninth and 17th — which were playing really long into the wind.”
Derksen, who was one over par after five holes, said: “It was a funny day because I started well with a birdie from about five feet but then three-putted the third and fourth and ended up in three divots on the fairways later in the round.
“But I made a lot of birdies (coming home), and I’ve ended the day in a really good position. I started making a few putts and my confidence lifted.”
The 39-year-old famously beat Ernie Els by one shot to win the Dubai Desert Classic in 2003, but his only other win came at the Madeira Island Open two years later.
“It’s only the first day, I know, but I haven’t led a tournament for quite a while, so if I can keep rolling in the putts hopefully we could be in for a good week,” he added.
The five Irish golfers in the field failed to fire in their opening rounds, with Michael Hoey best placed after a level-par 72 that included four birdies and four bogeys.
Former China Open champion Damien McGrane was a shot further back, while a run of four bogeys in five holes around the turn saw Peter Lawrie sign for a three-over 75. Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and Gareth Maybin both opening with rounds of 76.