Korean Past Champion Leads Hong Kong Open

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European TourHONG KONG -- Korean golfer Kang Wook-Soon is in a familiar place.
 
The last Asian golfer to win the Hong Kong Open when he titled here in 1998, Kang fired a 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to take the opening round lead of this co-sanctioned event between the European Tour and Asian Tour.
 
Kang set the pace in an early group, orchestrating a bogey-free round that included five straight birdies on the back nine. He leads Martin Erlandsson, Rick Gibson and Jyoti Randhawa by one stroke after those three shot opening-round, 5-under-par 65s.
 
Francois Delamontagne, Soren Kjeldsen and Richard McEvoy share fifth place at 4-under 66, one shot ahead of seven golfers tied for eighth place.
 
After Kang opened his round with a birdie at the first, he cooled off but remained steady with 11 straight pars. Included in that stretch, however, were a couple of missed opportunities on short birdie putts.
 
'The greens are a bit grainy and I was not used to it, but I then started to read the greens a bit differently,' said Kang.
 
The 39-year-old began his birdie run at the par-5 13th, and then carded threes on four straight par fours. His putts during the stretch ranged from four feet to 18 feet.
 
'I looked back at my past successes here in Asia and the memories certainly helped me,' Kang admitted.
 
Although familiar to Asian Tour fans -- he is a two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner and bears the nickname 'Hahoetal,' which means 'friendly face' in Korean -- Kang could not have been considered one of the favorites entering the tournament.
 
But his play was miles better than some of the more recognizable names in this week's field.
 
Paul Casey, who won last week's Volvo China Open, struggled to a 4-over 74 and is tied for 103rd place. He was having an even worse day before stringing together three straight birdies to end his round.
 
'Everything that could have happened on my front nine did happen,' said Casey. 'But on my second nine it seemed to come together a bit and I started to get a few breaks as well, and that was that. But at least I hung in there.'
 
Colin Montgomerie, the eight-time European Tour Order of Merit champion, also finished strong to salvage a bad start. He played his final 15 holes at minus-3 to help erase a double-bogey seven at the third hole.
 
'I did okay,' said Montgomerie, who is one of 16 golfers tied for 29th place at 1-under 69. 'I took seven [on] the third and if I made a four there I'd have shot 66. So no big deal, three more rounds to go and so there is nothing wrong. Three 65s and you never know.'
 
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez is among those tied with Montgomerie at minus-1.
 
Related links:
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Scores - Hong Kong Open
  • Full Coverage - Hong Kong Open